Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well by Sam Sifton
Random House • $18 • ISBN 9781400069910
Published October 23, 2012

Tomorrow we'll start the two-week countdown until Thanksgiving. Raise your hand if you're starting to stress over cooking a turkey and making gravy!

Sam Sifton, the former restaurant critic of the New York Times—and the guy who used to answer the newspaper's Thanksgiving help line—is here to help. In a thin tome that honors the holiday and provides helpful, straight-forward advice, Sifton confidently guides readers through the production that is Thanksgiving: prep, cooking, table-setting, cleanup.

Yes, the book includes recipes for Thanksgiving classics like turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. There are also recipes for delicious dishes that might revamp your holiday table: creamed Brussels sprouts, grilled turkey, roasted cauliflower with anchovy breadcrumbs, Indian pudding and much, much more. Though the recipes look delicious and appear very easy to follow, it is the essays about what Thanksgiving should be that had me laughing and nodding my head. (Do not—I repeat do not!—serve appetizers on Thanksgiving.) Here's an excerpt from the book's introduction.

But be forewarned. Thanksgiving is not a book for everyone. It is not for those in search of the new Thanksgiving craze, the latest recipe for turkey in a bag, the next big trend in holiday entertaining. There will be no recipes here for ham or lamb, roast beef or swordfish. Thanksgiving is a holiday that anchors itself in tradition. Which means: You will make a turkey. Turkey is why you are here.

Thanksgiving is likewise not a book for those interested in cutting corners. Shortcuts are anathema to Thanksgiving, which is a holiday that celebrates not just our bounty but also our slow, careful preparation of it. There is no room in Thanksgiving for the false wisdom of compromise—for ways to celebrate the holiday without cooking, or by cranking open cans of gravy to pour over a store-roasted turkey reheated in the microwave. Thanksgiving is no place for irony. We are simply going to cook.

Put plainly, we are going to cook Thanksgiving correctly.

And what exactly does that mean? It means there is going to be a turkey, and side dishes and dressing to go with it, and plenty of gravy as well. There is going to be a proper dinner table even if it turns out to be a slab of plywood over some milk crates, covered by a sheet. There are going to be proper place settings for each person and glasses for water and wine. There are going to be candles. There will be dessert.

Read more about Thanksgiving in this month's cooking column. Do you have any Thanksgiving-themed cookbooks that have successfully guided you through the day? Will you check out Thanksgiving?

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