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Letting go of control with civility

Thanksgiving was memorable and different. My daughters took over my kitchen. They devised an extensive menu despite living more than 500 miles apart. They’d assigned their college student brother two easy menu items. My job was to stock the refrigerator and cupboards with basics and thaw the turkey.

These two watch cooking shows and read cookbooks as if they were novels. For a day and a half they prepared food and consulted their menu taped to a cupboard door. My first pangs of not being in control hit when one asked me to take the turkey out of the brine and get it in the oven early on the second morning. It would not be stuffed. How can you have a Thanksgiving turkey without my mother’s stuffing? I’d worked hard to get that recipe. One Thanksgiving years ago I sat at mom’s farmhouse kitchen table and quizzed her on every ingredient and approximate amounts since she wasn’t measuring anything.

I took the dog on a long walk on the second day and thought as I came back towards home that I could set the table. I came in the door to find they’d already selected china, had a centerpiece and the drawer with table linens was open with napkins laying about. Apparently some task in the kitchen had taken the table setter away from a final decision on napkins.

Somewhere in the haze of food preparation, I was asked to find my mom’s recipe for salad delicious—this is a 1950s green Jell-o concoction. (Something of my heritage would be on the table.) And as meal time approached, I was called to the kitchen to make gravy. I am, after all, the only one with a home ec degree.

“To be open inspires credibility and trust;
to be closed fosters suspicion and mistrust.” -- Stephen M.R. Covey, 'The Speed of Trust'

Covey writes you can evaluate your openness with questions such as:
• Do I believe that the way I see the world is totally accurate and complete—or am I honestly willing to listen to and consider new viewpoints and ideas?
• Do I seriously consider differing points of view, and am I willing to be influenced by them?
• Do I believe there may be principles that I have not yet discovered? Am I determined to live in harmony with them, even it if means developing new thinking patterns and habits?
• Do I value---and am I involved in—continual learning?

The Thanksgiving tale is a simple one of being open to new ideas, of the power of differing views and being open to something new and different. Covey’s questions applied to the workplace can bring powerful results if you practice civility—listening and respecting the ideas of others.

P.S. After long hours in the kitchen, the girls called in the rest of the family and friends both evenings to play (new and different) board games. Both daughters told me this was the best Thanksgiving ever. I’d agree.


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Wonderful story and great reminder. Sounds like the perfect Thanksgiving! :)

Thanks for letting us take over the kitchen! I've been away from home for the last five or so Thanksgivings. I got used to taking over Thanksgiving or at least part of the food prep. I got worried it wouldn't happen if I didn't start organizing. Next year we should all work together on the menu planning.

Like any Thanksgiving each dish has a story.

Thanksgiving Menu 2009:

Chex Mix (I can't remember a family gathering with out this salty snack. I don't know the origin of this one.)

Cheese, Sausage & Crackers (Block and Bridal)

Scalloped Corn (dad's mom's specialty)

Green Bean Casserole (your son insisted on this one)

Salad Delicious (mom's mom's specialty)

Stuffing (okay I stole this recipe from a friend)

Roasted Root Vegetables (new this year - from my obsession with parsnips and Brussels sprouts)

Mashed Potatoes (potatoes from the garden)

Cranberry Relish - (this is a mom's mom's recipe too)

Turkey and Gravy (Your daughter found this recipe in New Best Recipes Cookbook)


Pumpkin Pie (First time ever made from a fresh pumpkin)

Pecan Pie (my husband's grandma's recipe)

Real Whip Cream

Thanks for sharing this family story and the idea of letting new things into your family. We are having a debate in my husband's family about expectations for Christmas. He and I want to make changes and his daughter wants to replicate for her sons the kind of Christmas she had as a child. This example gives me hope that if both generations listen to each other, we may be able to find middle ground that will make all the adults happy and more importantly, give the children memories and experiences that they will take with them into adulthood.

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