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What Not to Talk About at Thanksgiving Dinner

What Not to Talk About at Thanksgiving Dinner

Avoid these tricky topics at your holiday table

Creatas/Thinkstock

Don't bore your Thanksgiving guests to tears with bad conversation!

Thanksgiving should be a stress-free day of giving thanks, spending quality time with the loved ones in your life, and let's face it, chowing down on meat and carbs until you collapse into a turkey-induced coma. However, this is often easier said than done, especially if your relatives tend to let their opinions flow as freely as the gravy. When sitting elbow to elbow at a crowded table, things have the potential to get pretty heated, pretty quickly.

In order to keep the hot heads from offending those with more delicate sensibilities, some refereeing might be in order. Or better yet, simply avoid certain topics altogether to ensure a peaceful holiday meal is enjoyed by all. We consulted with leading wedding and entertaining expert David Tutera about topics to avoid (and tweak) at the Thanksgiving table.

While it is impossible to predict anyone's specific reaction to a particular subject, in close quarters with family present, it is best to err on the side of caution. For example, if your cousin is fresh out of rehab, hold off on offering him a glass of merlot. Or if your aunt has some uncommon child-rearing techniques, it's probably best to skip any discussions on parenting.

In case things do get out of hand, have a few backup topics to quickly steer the discussion toward in a pinch. Think lighthearted talking points like the weather, who you think is slated to make it to the Super Bowl, and that you can't believe how big your young nephew has gotten. Also, a compliment to the chef goes a long way, and can turn everyone's focus back to the reason for the gathering.

So dig those pants with the super-stretch elastic waistband out of storage and bone up on your family-friendly dialogue, because Turkey Day is on the horizon. Click through to see what not to talk about during Thanksgiving dinner.

For more turkey talk, visit The Daily Meal's Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving!


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Entertainment

Find out which Netflix series your family members have been binging. Discuss possible fan theories, cliffhangers, the latest episode and more. If there are kids at the table, be sure to leave anything racy out of the conversation.

Read any good books lately? Tell your family members about them and ask for any recommendations they may have.

If your family is full of music lovers, ask everyone to name their favorite album of all time and why they love it.

Movie buffs? Ask each person to name their favorite movie of the year. Or try playing the movie game. The person with the soonest birthday starts off by naming a movie. The person next to them must name an actor or actress in that movie. The person after them must name a different movie that actor or actress has been in. Continue the play clockwise. Three wrong answers and you’re out!

It’s even okay to discuss celebrity gossip, especially if it will take the focus off your own family drama!

For more tips on getting the family talking this Thanksgiving, follow FamilyEducation on Pinterest:


What Not to Talk About at Thanksgiving Dinner

— -- It’s the season for a lot of things, but talking about why you're still not married isn't one of them.

Thanksgiving dinner only happens once a year, so it's best to leave such uncomfortable conversations for another day, and focus on safe topics like the weather, sports or, most importantly, the turkey --unless it's burned, but we'll get to that.

Keep table talk peaceful by avoiding these taboo topics:

"Somebody's Hungry!"

Sure, people like to indulge on Thanksgiving, but that doesn't mean you need to point out when someone clears their plate or grabs an extra helping of stuffing.

"You want to avoid commenting on how someone eats," etiquette expert Daniel Post Senning of the Emily Post Institute said. "The compliment doesn't always get received that way.

"But you can always compliment the chef," he said. "You can say how good you feel, how good the food was, how full you are."

Religion, Politics and Money

These should be no-brainers: Religion, politics and finances are definitely topics you'll want to avoid during a holiday celebration.

"You just want to be careful," Senning said. "It's not that you're never allowed to talk about these things, but you need to be prepared for people to have legitimate and valid differences of opinion. By definition, that's what makes these potentially controversial."

For some families, heated discussions about politics are almost a holiday tradition. If that's the case, just save those for after dinner, so people who don't want to partake can be left out.

Sex and Relationships

We've all heard the stories of people whose families' use holidays as an opportunity to nag about when they're getting married. Or engaged. Or having kids.

Senning says such "probing questions" should be off limits, but understands they can be hard to avoid when family is around.

"Of course, this is family, people are going to pry," he said. "A great tactic is to turn around and ask someone else what they think, if a conversation is starting to feel a little too personal. Steer the conversation toward safer territory."

When the Food Is Bad

Is the turkey overcooked? Pretend it isn't, and compliment the chef on the mashed potatoes if anyone asks.


What Not to Talk About at Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s almost Thanksgiving, the one day a year where virtually every American will have the same basic dinner. And people have to talk about something over turkey and stuffing! But there are some topics that are best avoided while eating with extended family. Sure, there are those potentially fraught subjects, like politics or marriage status or lingering childhood resentment, that are wise to stay away from. But that’s obvious. Or at least it should be. We’ve all seen Home for the Holidays, right?

But there are less obvious conversations that don’t need to happen at a family dinner. These aren’t the ones that will provoke arguments. They are the ones that cause blank stares and the realization that few people outside of media really understand all the things that we spend our days writing and talking about.

Remember, just because we spend our days tweeting about the media, it doesn’t mean other people at the table do. So in the interest of a happy holiday, here’s a (partial) list of subjects not to bring up.

Serial: Just because David Carr wrote that “people will gather around tables everywhere and, well, talk about how bummed they are that ‘Serial,’ the wildly popular podcast, is taking Thanksgiving off” doesn’t mean it’s true. (Note: Go ahead and ignore this advice if your family happens to include two or more public defenders, at least one podcast aficionado, or Ira Glass.)

Racket Teen: Your family doesn’t know what a Tumblr is and doesn’t want to hear about a website that didn’t launch. A good rule of thumb is that if you find yourself about to say “Internet joke,” just stop. Actually, if you find yourself referring to “The Internet” as a thing, it’s probably a good time to put some mashed potatoes in your mouth.

#GamerGate: Duh. This should go with out saying.

The New York TimesBrooklyn coverage: Brooklyn? Fine, whatever, it’s almost impossible to avoid. But whether The New York Times writes about Brooklyn too much? No. Your family probably likes those stories.

The Feud between Amazon and Hachette: If they ask, then you can bring it up. But really, only if they ask.

These words and phrases: native advertising, sponsored content, content, banner ads, Twitter feuds, user engagement, digital trends, pageviews, off the record, webisode, platform, platisher, trend stories, newsletter, mobile, Tweetstorm, Twitterverse, Twitter canoe, inside baseball, a source said …

So what should you talk about? Great question. Let us know if you figure it out.


Why I Stopped Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for My Family

The woman who helped plan the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for seven years gives you permission to eat out instead.

When the multitude of holiday magazine stories, morning show centerpiece tutorials, internet recipes, and Instagram images flood the media this time of year, I still feel a guilty twinge. For a couple decades, I had planned, prepped, and cooked the traditional Thanksgiving dinner in my big suburban kitchen, and my family loved it. It was our favorite tradition and holiday. And we all watched the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, like I did growing up, every year. At the time I worked for Filene's in Boston, and though I had to open the holiday windows at the department store at dawn the next day&mdashBlack Friday&mdashI was glad to be at home running the show for Turkey Day.

Then when the kids were grown, I got the chance to run the real show: the actual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. I moved to New York to work for Macy's but commuted home to Boston on the weekends to join my husband who stayed put. Our two millennial daughters eventually moved in with me into a typical small New York apartment. The job, apartment, and commute lasted for seven years. The marriage is still going strong.

In New York I did my best to manage a huge new job, build a professional life, and keep my home life in Boston as normal as I could. One casualty was the home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner. Working on the parade meant 24/7 devotion to the cause for weeks in advance, starting before dawn on Thanksgiving morning, walking the 2.65-mile parade route, followed by pure exhilaration and exhaustion at noon when Santa made his way into Herald Square.

As I contemplated the enormous demands on my time and endurance levels, standing for hours on the street watching Broadway rehearsals, shepherding VIPs backstage at the balloon inflation extravaganza, heading off all manner of potential PR crises, and gritting my teeth through clown college, I knew there was just no way I could cram my whole family into our tiny galley kitchen. Even if I had one scrap of energy left to peel an onion.

"Our kids were super skeptical, and I was unsure if a restaurant Thanksgiving would be disappointing or perhaps kind of sad."

But what do time-challenged and space-starved New Yorkers do for Thanksgiving? They go out. Lots of them. So we started a new holiday tradition, unsure of how eating in a restaurant would feel. Our kids were super skeptical, and I was unsure if a restaurant Thanksgiving would be disappointing or perhaps kind of sad. Would we be able to hear each other in a noisy New York boîte? Would the food match up to all our favorites? Maybe this New York thing was just too much of a sacrifice after all.

But guess what? It felt great. We found a famous New York steakhouse near 34th street with a drool-worthy Thanksgiving menu. It was warm, welcoming, intimate, and unconscionably delicious. And no shopping, planning, prepping, styling, cooking, or clean-up for me. No one needed to get up to clear the table between courses, so we could actually enjoy the meal and talk to each other without interruption. And picky eaters got to order exactly what they wanted. We made it our new tradition for seven years, inviting friends and family to join us, celebrating with boyfriends and their families, out-of-towners, and eventually fiancés and husbands.

Now back in Boston and happily living full-time with my patient husband, I appreciate that our kids are still proud New Yorkers and don't visit home much. So our Thanksgiving family tradition in our special NYC eatery stuck, and we will still make it there to celebrate being together&mdashin a restaurant&mdashagain this year.

Me, I'm just happy to have Thanksgiving and Black Friday off for only the second time in 33 years. By now, I've learned to keep that guilty twinge to myself.


17 Not-Your-Average Thanksgiving Recipes

Who doesn&apost love apple cider? This turkey-gravy combo is sure to become a new classic for your family.

Chorizo & Cornbread Stuffing

Photography by Eva Kolenko

Stuffing that tastes like a tamale? Sign us up!

Pork Tenderloin with Corn Muffin Stuffin&apos, Gravy & Green Beans

Photography by Christopher Testani

Not into turkey? Hey, that&aposs okay! You can still get all the classic Thanksgiving flavors with this scaled-down menu.

Caramel Apple Pie with Hot Tamale Whipped Cream

If you like sweet and spicy, then this dessert is right up your alley. Pro tip: Pick up Hot Tamales while they&aposre on sale after Halloween!

Rachael Ray&aposs Whiskey-Brined Turkey

Are you a whiskey kind of gal? Join the club! If you&aposre not, bourbon would also work for this tasty glaze.

Sourdough Stuffing with Apple, Sausage & Kale

This tangy stuffing has a rustic look and plenty of surface area for crunchy bits, which everyone knows is the best part.

Cranberry-Sauce Rose

This show-stopping cranberry rose is so pretty𠅊lmost too pretty to eat!

Spicy Fried Turkey with Hot Honey Gravy

Nashville Hot Chicken is all the rage right now, and this turkey version with hot honey gravy will have your guests begging for seconds.

Negroni Cranberry Relish

You make this cranberry sauce in a food processor, so you can save that precious stovetop space for other sides.


21 Incredible Vegetable Side Dishes to Serve at Thanksgiving Dinner

This Thanksgiving, don't let the stuffing and gravy outshine your vegetables. Eating your greens has never been more enjoyable thanks to these oh-s0 tasty recipes, which include new twists on carrots, beets, and potatoes.

Pecans give this creamy veggie dish tons of flavor and a satisfying crunch.

Get the recipe at Good Housekeeping.

Topped with a bacon-infused dressing, fried butternut squash, and walnuts, each bite of this salad is absolutely delicious.

Get the recipe at Delish.

If you load your plate up with this heart-healthy salad, you won't feel as guilty when you go for seconds during dessert!

Get the recipe at Good Housekeeping.

These adorable potato stacks are easy to make and even easier to eat.

Get the recipe at Delish.

Tools you'll need: Wilton Perfect Results Non-Stick Mini Muffin and Cupcake Pan ($30, amazon.com)

Even guests who don't like Brussels sprouts won't be able to stop eating these delicious buffalo bites.

Get the recipe at Delish.

Move over, pie: These maple syrup- and brown sugar-glazed carrots are the side dish version of dessert.

Use a spoon handle to give winter squash this gorgeous texture.

Forego bland salads &mdash this cauliflower and arugula option is packed with flavor.

Toasted almond slices give these blanched green beans an added crunch.

This spinach is so rich and cheesy that you'll forget you're eating nutritious greens.

Thinly sliced Brussels sprouts and a citrusy vinaigrette are a match made in heaven.

Sprinkle sliced almonds on top to add some crunch.

Tools you'll need: Living Kit Knife Set ($27, amazon.com)

A rich sauce with mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Parmesan cheese is what makes this traditional side special.

Tools you'll need: Insulated Casserole Travel Carry Bag ($12, amazon.com)

Put a new spin on your favorite mashed potatoes recipe by adding rosemary and garlic.

Who knew Worcestershire sauce made the perfect topping for your tender-crisp green beans?

Get the recipe at Renee Nicole's Kitchen.

Tools you'll need: Good Cook OvenFresh Stoneware Ceramic Casserole Dish ($16, amazon.com)

Keep your sides simple by tossing beets with red wine vinegar, olive oil, and Dijon mustard.

Tools you'll need: Pro Chef Kitchen Tools Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl ($25, amazon.com)

This cheesy sweet potato makeover will make you forget that you're eating vegetables.

Tools you'll need: Good Cook OvenFresh Stoneware Ceramic Casserole Dish ($16, amazon.com)

Transform this low-carb dish into a delightful Thanksgiving side seasoned with garlic, black pepper, paprika, and Parmesan.

Get the recipe at Primavera Kitchen.

Tools you'll need: Insulated Casserole Travel Carry Bag, ($12, amazon.com)

We can't stop drooling over these roasted carrots covered in garlic butter.

Get the recipe at Diethood.

Looking for a new holiday favorite? Blend sweet corn with Parmesan cheese and a cream sauce made with half and half.


Turkey

The roast turkey is the quintessential main dish for Thanksgiving feasts. Remember that no matter what you choose to make, the key to a successful dinner is having a turkey large enough to feed everybody – and to have some leftovers for yourself. Try these recommendations for the star of the show:

  • This roast turkey recipe includes directions for defrosting, stuffing, trussing, seasoning, and roasting. It also gives you the instructions for how to bake the turkey if you prefer to leave it unstuffed.
  • A roast turkey with bacon will be a crowd-pleaser. The bacon helps keep the moisture on the turkey meat, giving it a smoky flavor and a juicy finish.
  • For sweeter palates, think of a balsamic and honey roast turkey, enhanced by thyme and oranges. Simple and flavorful.

Not all households are fans of turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner. Many chose a flavorful ham instead of the bird. Make this meat your main:

  • This maple and brown sugar glazed ham is an excellent choice it cooks in just 2 hours and needs very little prepping. It requires 4 ingredients besides a fully cooked ham.
  • Our gammon recipe transforms this cut of pork into a beautiful baked ham flavored with apricots, cloves, and red wine.
  • Cross the ocean and try a British take on ham. Serve the amazing flavors of cider and peppercorns with a simple recipe for Welsh cider ham.

28 Best Thanksgiving Recipes You Can Make in a Crock Pot

This year, break out the slow cooker and give your oven a bit of a break.

When preparing to cook all of the dishes on your Thanksgiving menu, you may be tempted to start measuring the inside of your oven. If you're wondering how to get it all done, we recommend giving thanks for a certain countertop appliance that can take on a substantial part of the workload. No, it's not the Instant Pot, it's your slow cooker. There are actually a ton of Thanksgiving Crock Pot recipes out there that'll make all of your recipes taste just as delicious, and may save you a ton of time and counter space.

We're not just talking about the staple Thanksgiving recipes like turkey recipes or stuffing recipes either. In fact, you can create your whole Thanksgiving dinner with a Crock-Pot. Although you may not be surprised to learn that Thanksgiving side dishes like sweet potato casserole and mashed potatoes can be made in a slow cooker, some of the following Thanksgiving Crock-Pot recipes (like the sangria and apple cider recipes ahead) may surprise you. There's really no limit to what you can cook in your slow cooker. When you're finished with dinner, we've even added in some Thanksgiving dessert recipes you can also make in your Crock-Pot.

While the thought of putting together a whole Thanksgiving meal may have been stressful in the past, it just got easier with these Thanksgiving Crock Pot recipes. With your slow cooker doing all of the work for you, that means you get to spend more time with your family&mdashand that's definitely something to be thankful for.


Seafood Recipes for Thanksgiving

Mussels with Garlic and Breadcrumbs

If any modification to the (arbitrarily) traditional Thanksgiving turkey will be viewed as a personal affront to your family, you can play it safer by adding in mussels as an appetizer. Broiling mussels and serving them on the half shell as in our Broiled Mussels with Sweet Paprika Aioli recipe makes for a pretty and flavorful hors d’oeuvre , but our Mussels with Garlic and Breadcrumbs recipe might be even better since they evoke stuffing.

Whole Grilled Bass with Olives, Onion, and Artichoke

Just as likely as turkey, the pilgrims might have had bass for the first Thanksgiving dinner. And if they did, you just know they would have cooked the whole fish, with all the whole-fish flavor that comes with it. If you still have the grill out and usable around Thanksgiving, take advantage of how completely grill-able whole bass can be—no worrying about fillets flaking apart and falling through the grill grates! Get our Whole Grilled Bass recipe .

Or, if you’ll be doing all your cooking with the stove and oven, perhaps you can sacrifice some historical accuracy (you’ve been doing it for years, anyway!) and bake bass in foil pouches. The cleanup will be super easy, and the packets help infuse the fish with the flavor of herbs and spices .

Easy Clambake

Since we’re talking about modeling traditions off of a meal that was probably heavy on the seafood, we might as well go the whole hog (err…full flounder?) and have ourselves a clambake! I’m talking clams, mussels, shrimp, lobster, and more! Our Stovetop Clambake recipe includes lobster, but you can also keep it simple with this Easy Clambake recipe , which focuses on the first three seafoods I listed and can be prepared in less than a half-hour. Either way, a clambake is perfect for gathering with friends and family, and definitely pays homage to the foods available to the pilgrims at the time!

Oysters with Prosecco Mignonette

Finally, if your Thanksgiving style is more chic and intimate, what better way to serve elevated Pilgrim fare than with oysters? Use champagne vinegar to make a mignonette that highlights the flavors of fresh oysters, and top with prosecco for an extra-special touch. Get our Oysters with Prosecco Mignonette recipe .

Are you burning tradition to the ground? Or are you just being more honest , with food choices that are more in-line with those served at the actual first Thanksgiving? No matter what you serve, someone is going to be unhappy with change—but, isn’t that even more accurate to the experience of the pilgrims? So, serve that seafood, acknowledge the familial strife you’ve caused, and tie it back to that first horrible year of Plymouth Colony . Ultimately, it’s the most traditional Thanksgiving anyone could ask for!

Or you can wait a little longer and celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes in another month.

See our Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving for other options, tips, tricks, and recipes.

Related Video: Seafood Dishes for an Italian Christmas Eve


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