Are These Rules For a “Perfect Midwest Thanksgiving” Accurate?
One of the many pop-culture sites I love to follow on FB is The A.V. Club, headquartered in Chicago. Great interviews, articles and news covering music, TV, movies, books and everything. And then they added food with their sister site, The Takeout. Of course I followed it, too. I love food and beverages. That's to give you backstory on the article they just published, titled "7 Gentle Rules For Hosting The Most Midwestern Gathering Imaginable," specifically targeting any upcoming Thanksgiving dinners you may be attending.
As a nigh lifelong resident of the Midwest, from the Great Lakes of Upper Michigan to the rolling hills of Kansas, and right here to the banks of the Mississippi, I figured this would fit me to a T. But as I read through them, I only ever found myself going, "Ehhhh kinda... I guess?" They all seemed kinda obvious, and not at all specific to the Midwest. Nothing jumped out and said "Ah yes, this is exactly a Mid-America thing."
Rule #1 - Establish a debooting zone
A place for everyone to remove their dirty, muddy, possibly snow covered shoes. I mean, on the one hand, yeah, no duh. But on the other hand, yeah. No duh. We all pretty much do that anyway. Go into the house? Take the shoes off. Go into the friend's house? Take the shoes off, unless it's summer and we're going straight to the backyard for a cookout or something. This is such a blatantly obvious thing, it's overkill to make it a rule.
Rule #2 - Enact a Bring Your Own Slippers policy
To their credit, they say specifically family engagements. And this is so you have "shoes" to wear in the house, but still observe the blatantly obvious debooting rule. I guess this makes sense if at a family dinner, but what if you're at a dinner party with friends, or friends of friends, or whatever? There's a certain comfort level you have to be at to wear slippers around people. And I don't know what this has to do with "the Midwest."
Rule #3 - Get Creative With Overflow Seating
I'm gonna stop you right there. I have never once been to a Midwest dinner party, especially a holiday party, where the host had to "get creative" with seating. Midwesterners? We have folding chairs in our garages. And if we don't? Our next door neighbor does. Or one of our good friends who will be at the dinner party does and can bring a few extra along. Midwesterners are like Boy Scouts, they're always prepared.
Rule #4 - Keep People Out Of The Kitchen
That chicken is clearly cooked... where are his oven mitts? WHERE?!
This is almost voided by rule number five, and it makes sense if one person is doing all the food. You don't need too many cooks, and all the distractions. But if you follow rule number five with everyone bringing a dish, then most of the work should be done by the time people are showing up. The turkey or ham or whatever the main dish should be in the oven and almost done. As for drinks well, that leads us to rule number five...
Rule #5 - Invite Side Dishes
If you adopt the potluck model of a dinner party, as most people, especially those my age, do, there's also a BYOB mandate in that. With how diversified tastes in beer, wine, soda and juice has become, it's just smart to have coolers set up to chill drinks. Same with foods and side dishes. Maybe guest A has a dynamite potato recipe, while guest B is really good with the veggies, or guest C has a particular food allergy so their dish conforms to that. Rather than one person trying to please a large group, the group can come together to do their own thing.
I'm not gonna get into the final rules of bringing tupperware and eating leftovers because again, no duh. I feel like if they had done a "7 Rules for a New England Thanksgiving" or "7 Rules for a SoCal Thanksgiving" they would have at least tried to celebrate some of the culinary staples of the region, and of the holiday. Or spins on classic dishes. But this just felt like a lazy rundown of basic dinner party rules that everyone who has ever done something would know.
Submit your own rules in the comments. We'll make our own "Midwest Thanksgiving Party" rules.