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How to keep your cool as a holiday host? Just do less

AP Photo
  • Annaliese Griffin
By Annaliese Griffin

Editor of the Quartz Daily Obsession

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

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Welcome to the holidays!

This is Annaliese Griffin, taking a moment to say hello at the very beginning of holiday madness. I write about food and culture for Quartz and I love this time of year, but it also feels impossibly hectic. Here in the US, we’re less than a week away from Thanksgiving. After years of hosting the celebration, along with countless food-oriented gatherings, I have one big piece of advice: Do a little less than you think you should.

There’s such a temptation this time of year to take on too much. My list currently includes sending out a stellar holiday card, putting together packages for friends I’m missing, and hosting a holiday party between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I’m trying to remember that all of these activities will be utterly pointless if I’m too stressed to enjoy them.

Don’t think of doing less—whether that’s removing one thing from your Thanksgiving menu or your packed holiday itinerary—as a failure. Think of it as the lifestyle version of Coco Chanel’s famous advice about looking in the mirror before you leave the house and removing one accessory from your ensemble. The idea is so resonant that it is referenced constantly, whether describing how to dress like a Vogue editor in Paris or the staging of a new opera. The goal here is not austerity or minimalism. We’re going for a gracious acceptance that it’s more important to do the things you love and have time to enjoy them, than to crowd them with too much noise.

Start with planning

As a person who resists organization, I understand how annoying this advice is—but life can be so much better when you plan ahead. It’s the secret framework that supports that mellow attitude I’m always trying to cultivate. This truth extends to Thanksgiving leftovers. Don’t just react to the giant bird carcass slowly drying out in your fridge. Show up with a strategy. Take stock of your collection of containers to store leftovers, and get more if you need them. You can always send food home with guests if you’re hosting.

Post-Thanksgiving hash

James Ransom/Food52

This week I wrote about how professional cooks repurpose leftovers, and one answer is: breakfast. Add extra eggs and a couple bunches of scallions to your shopping list to make the most of stuffing hash and scallion-and-potato pancakes. In Julia Turshen’s book Now and Again, a celebration of the art of leftovers, she repurposes Thanksgiving stuffing—the traditional American side for turkey made by oven-roasting dry bread mixed with stock and aromatics—for Friday morning breakfast by crisping it up in a skillet with a little butter or oil, then cooking eggs to your liking to slide on top, resulting in a sort of savory, deconstructed bread pudding. Really, why limit this to breakfast?

Expectation management: parties edition 

I live about 45 minutes from my hometown in Vermont, which means my house is an ideal location for childhood friends to gather during the holidays. Last year I hosted an appetizer and dessert party the day after Thanksgiving. Rather than making up a new menu, I made double batches of the appetizers we served on Thanksgiving in advance, and an extra pie. (Again, planning to the rescue.) My husband made chips and queso and we put out a spread that also cleaned out our refrigerator.

The event was a successful example of expectations management: the invite announced a start and end time, specified that there would be space for kids to play, and clearly stated there would be snacks and drinks, but no meal. I also asked guests to bring something to share and any special items their children required. Because I wasn’t worried about serving dinner at a specific time, or kids’ dietary whims, I was able to enjoy my guests without bustling around in a panic.

Juicy juice

AP Photo/Jacques Brinon

In France, the third Thursday of November is Beaujolais Nouveau Day—a celebration of the end of the harvest season for winemakers. This bright, fruity wine from the Beaujolais region is meant to be enjoyed while young and uncomplicated. It’s made from just-harvested Gamay grapes and is a fleeting, seasonal taste, not something to hang onto or drink year-round.

A new generation of young winemakers in the US are following the Beaujolais Nouveau tradition in spirit, though often with different grapes. What unites them in style is their light, fresh flavors—these are glou glou wines. If you can get your hands on a bottle, consider yourself lucky. Look for Nouveau! from Division Wines in Portland, Oregon; Nouveau Glou from Donkey & Goat in Oakland, California; or Early Wine from Macari Vineyard on Long Island. They’re all quite different, but they’re all young wines made from 2018 grapes. If you can’t find an American Nouveau, you can always ask your favorite wine shop for their lightest, brightest bottle of Gamay.

Have a lovely season of celebration, no matter what you’re celebrating!

PS: Want a Fresca? 

My best friend from high school sent me this video, entitled “Mom When I Visit Home,” a few weeks ago texting, “I’ve watched maybe a dozen times, can’t stop.” Now I can’t stop either. Alyssa Limperis is an actress, writer, and comedian, and she has created a series of videos that captures the indomitable quotidian force of mothers everywhere. The genius is that although Limperis plays off her own mom’s particular quirks—especially her walk and her obsession with the mailman—these videos plumb something deeper, a universal mom truth about all the little ways they think about us and express how they care, often in the form of doing laundry and doling out paper towels. Enjoy. And turn off these lights, you’re racking up the bill.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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