Turkey Day: Are You A Kitchen Slaver, Or Shirker?

Illustration for article titled Turkey Day: Are You A Kitchen Slaver, Or Shirker?

As in so many things in life, Thanksgiving labor divides less than evenly into those who slave, and those who enjoy the fruits of said slavery. Most of us have been on both ends — resentful toiler and token helper — and there's something to be said for both roles. But to remedy this historical inequality, the Times brings us a template for how to delegate T-day like a CEO. Which means what, nowadays? Running your meal into bankruptcy?So, yes, obviously this is a contrived and cutesy concept for a piece - not that there's anything wrong with that. Various business types weigh in with executive strategies and toss jargon around in a kitchen context.

With a vision firmly carved out, the next task is what business leaders would call engaging key stakeholders and identifying their performance expectations. That means figuring out who are the most important people to you at the Thanksgiving table and asking what they really want from the day and from you, the host.“Your goal as the leader here is to grasp what other people actually expect of you versus what you think they expect of you,” he said. “Often, what people expect is less than what you thought.”

You get the idea: let's just say, the conceit gets old pretty fast. Style aside, it doesn't seem like a template like this is seriously going to change anyone's attitude — certainly not a day before Thanksgiving. And the draconian breakdown the piece jokingly suggests sounds kinda Gulag-like- everyone might do his share, but no one's happy. Besides, anyone compulsive enough to run a holiday meal like this already has it in hand and in any case, doesn't really seem like a personality type who'd be open to delegating. And the truth is, the inequality of Thanksgiving labor is one of the horrible traditions of the holiday. Sometimes it's a question of space — a literal too-many cooks situation. Sometimes people's cooking styles don't mesh. A few are willing but incompetent. Occasionally good cooks are stressful kitchen companions. Some people are just really lazy and feel they've earned the right to do nothing but pig out. And then there are the kitchen martyrs who insist on full glory. As anyone who's helmed the meal knows, very rare is the kitchen helper who can slip in unobtrusively, stirring and chopping like a well-trained line cook, ceding full creative control to a tacitly-acknowledged chef de cuisine. More often, as a cook, you turn around to find some hippie blithely crumbling frankincense into a carefully-seasoned bowl of stuffing, or a well-meaning relative pestering you to know where mixing bowls are. Delegating requires trust, and in a family situation, not everyone has earned it. Besides, why, in these financially troubled times, would anyone model herself on a bastion of capitalist industry? It's obviously A) hard and B) unrewarding. (The temptation to make some horrible gravy bailout joke is almost overwhelming.) So stick to the plan: you work, you shirk, everyone eats. Rinse — the same person who always gets stuck with dishes, that is — and repeat. The C.E.O. of Thanksgiving Dinner [New York Times] [Image via My Recipes]

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This is my first Thanksgiving cooking for my mom (she's up here visiting, Dad's at home), and I'd be nervous if I weren't using all of her recipes :-) (Well, except the Tofurkey.)