Non-miserable Solo Thanksgiving in 2020?
November 12, 2020 1:23 PM   Subscribe

Because I'm not a selfish monster, I won't be joining beloved friends for a festive meal. I love Thanksgiving, love cooking, don't own a car so can't do a fun drive or anything like that. I will be making pies for some neighbors, but the thought of sitting down to a table for one is bringing me almost to tears. Trying to focus on giving thanks for the blessings I do have. Seeking suggestions ... not sure if I should even bother. Thank you!

The thought of Christmas doesn't depress me, what with movies and champagne-and-caviar-for-one and Christmas day itself just isn't a big deal. (I'm prepared that this year, it actually may be depressing because, hey, 2020!) But we're two weeks out from Turkey Day, and I'd like ideas on how/if to do Thanksgiving alone. "A Very Grubhub Thanksgiving" sounds hideous. Most restaurants are only doing special carryout dinners for 2+, and $100 seems extreme. Can't really get jazzed for cooking a complete feast, although I do love leftovers. Not volunteering ... if I were going to risk getting/spreading the Rona, I'd be eating with friends. (I can quarantine for the next 2 weeks, but they can't.) I'm in Denver, if that helps. Thanks for any tips on how to make things less grim!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I have spent several Thanksgivings alone. I have sushi and something delicious to drink. It is a full day of treating myself, incorporating my own form of gratitude practice as well.
posted by nathaole at 1:41 PM on November 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

Maybe a friend or two would like to split a by-the-pound order of smoked turkey from a local place. You can pick up the day before and portion and drop off for your friends. Then you are eating something special and sharing without sharing your air.
posted by ewok_academy at 1:46 PM on November 12, 2020 [9 favorites]

Pies for neighbors is a great idea!

If you feel up to organizing something, one fun idea could be a potluck-style food-share with a few friends where everyone cooks one dish in advance and drops off portions for the others. Then you get a full meal without doing a bunch of cooking yourself, and you get to think of your friends while enjoying your meal. (I'm not suggesting you eat together over Zoom because personally I wouldn't enjoy that, but it's a possibility!)

Otherwise, maybe the least depressing thing is to do something totally different. Thanksgiving traditions are designed for gathering in a group; many of them don't really make sense when that's not possible. Pack a big slice of your favorite pie and go for a walk in the nicest park in your city while thinking about all the things in your life that you're thankful for. Find a nice spot to sit and eat the pie. Call some friends and relatives and wish them a happy Thanksgiving. Then come home, order takeout (not Thanksgiving food) and put on a movie or two. You get the idea. Just try to have a nice, cozy day with a touch of Thanksgiving spirit.
posted by mekily at 1:47 PM on November 12, 2020 [7 favorites]

Do you have the technology and some people who might be able to share part of cooking time/the meal over video chat? A few weeks ago, my husband and I had a pizza party with my parents in which we started a facetime call with a phone leaning in a corner of the room while we were making the same food on both sides and chatted in the same way we would have in person. It was much more cozy than straight chatting, sitting at a table, and felt almost like being in person.
posted by past unusual at 1:48 PM on November 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Serious Eats has an article up that you might find helpful for meal planning: Thanksgiving Made Small(er): Tips and Recipes for a Scaled Down Menu. A cornish game hen or other small bird is a great alternative to a turkey. Or if you like leftovers then a turkey breast is a solid option.

Another approach is to make a favorite meal that has nothing to do with traditional Thanksgiving foods. For example, if you really like lasagna, then make lasagna. Treat it less like Thanksgiving with all its attendant trappings and more as a day off with a tasty meal for yourself.
posted by jedicus at 1:48 PM on November 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

Can you do zoom meal time with a few people you would have gathered with in person?

I’ve done many a holiday for one and my weird suggestion is do the meal or whatever your “event” thing as early in the day as possible and then do other stuff. I somehow dreaded the lead up to the meal but didn’t mind afterward when it came to watching Macy parade reruns, a walk (... even starting to put up Xmas decorations).
posted by raccoon409 at 1:53 PM on November 12, 2020

Thanksgiving here in Canada has already come and gone. Instead of getting together with family, we ordered turkey dinner & pumpkin pies from a local pie shops and enjoyed them for several days over the long weekend. It was low fuss but still felt special and was definitely delicious! We're planning to do the same thing for Christmas this year.

Looks like you could get a turkey pie from Olivia if you decide to go that route!
posted by burntflowers at 1:54 PM on November 12, 2020

I've spent many Thanksgivings alone and I hate it. Last year, I swore it would be the last time, but I'm doing it again this year because of COVID. So I'm very sympathetic.
One thing is I cook only my favorite parts of the traditional Thanksgiving meal - so stuffing, gravy, and pumpkin pie. Then I just snack on those all day rather than ever sitting down to a formal meal. Aside from that, I'll take a walk, watch a movie, Zoom with some family members, and hope next year is better.
posted by FencingGal at 1:55 PM on November 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you're still comfortable doing something physically distanced outside, I've been trying to plan a "hand held" Thanksgiving - turkey sausages, "stuffins" (stuffing muffins), cranberry jelly candy, maybe crispy fried or dehydrated green beans with a mushroom dipping sauce?

We're also going to video call parents and other family, open a nice bottle of wine, and spoil the dog.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:55 PM on November 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh! And my other trick is to make two- three of your favorite thanksgiving sides ans then ditch the rest or get them in the smallest amount possible. For me that’s green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and stuffing. Those make me pretty happy for leftovers and I don’t have to make them in obscene amounts either. If you have access to Trader Joe’s I hear they do well with frozen /packaged ways to fill out the rest of the table
posted by raccoon409 at 1:56 PM on November 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would say to try cooking something super-fancy for yourself that isn't a million different dishes? Like, an extreme turkey roulade with fancy-ish ingredients that will blow your socks off in flavor, and you can post pictures of it to impress all your friends and family, and maybe talk to them via video call while making it/eating it? Off your fanciest plate, with a folded napkin, wine glass of whatever is your favorite beverage on your side?
posted by xingcat at 1:58 PM on November 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

When I've had to do various seasonal holidays alone I've stocked up on the nibbles. Lots of tasty salamis, hams etc from the local deli, lots of cheeses, a bunch of crackers some dry fruit & fresh fruits & various pickles. I'll make my mums famous pate & a fancy dessert the day before. Then sit in front of the TV watching favorite movies with a giant Charcuterie platter all to myself. Honestly some of the best holidays I've ever had involved that platter & Mystery Science Theatre.
posted by wwax at 1:58 PM on November 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

I've been doing every-other-year solo Thanksgivings for about 15 years now - every other year my brother spends the day with his in-laws, and my parents and I agreed that when they did that, we'd say "the hell with it" and do a day trip somewhere for brunch on the Saturday after, because it was easier. The first year we thought we were going to be all wistful, but instead we all discovered that "holy crap, Thanksgiving without the hullabaloo is FANTSTIC."

I usually spend it with 100% pure indulgence. I sleep as late as I want, do whatever I want, and eat whatever I want. Some years this has meant a full-on Thanksgiving dinner, with the turkey scaled down to a duck or a Cornish game hen. Sometimes this has been a long-cooking turkey stew in the crockpot while I knit or write in my journal. Sometimes it is another yummy-sounding lamb stew while I read in the bathtub. Sometimes this has been ten bags of Cheetos scarfed down during a Mythbusters bingewatch. Once in a blue moon I have hosted or been a guest at a Friendsgiving, but often it's just me.

And because it is just me, I give myself the gift of being 100% purely selfish about what I want to do - which we so rarely get to do, and often deserve. Treating yourself with the care and attention you would be showering on other people can be really empowering - because you deserve it.

If you really would miss the traditional food, see if there are a couple dishes you can make in serves-one or serves-two portions, or find a way to incorporate that simply - a couple meaty turkey thighs instead of a whole bird or something. If not, and if there's a recipe you've had your eye on trying for a while when you had "more time to try", well - this is your chance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:00 PM on November 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the suggestions, and please keep them coming! Don't want to Zoom because I'd be the only one who is solo -- everyone else will be interacting and cooking with real people in person, and I'd feel more pathetic than I already do. Unfortunately (fortunately?) as a singleton I usually do exactly what I want and eat what I want every day. Thanksgiving has always been about the company.

I don't have family, and while my friends have invited me, they're hosting family who also won't have been quarantining. Maybe should just take the risk ... I would quarantine so at least I wouldn't be giving it to anyone else.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 2:16 PM on November 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Can you meet your friends for the traditional post-feast walk outdoors?
posted by Hypatia at 2:17 PM on November 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

Maybe some kind of movie watch party with other Metafilter folks.
posted by ewok_academy at 2:26 PM on November 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's obviously hard to know beforehand, but if you can think through each element of Thanksgiving, what feels most irreplaceable to you? Is it specific piece of the meal, or watching the game, or the same conversation you have with a certain relative every year? People have posted lots of ideas on how to scale-down menus, but if there are other pieces, try to find a way to honor them. I keep seeing stuff in the paper about video-chatting relatives and friends, but that sounds actively miserable to someone Zoomed-out by work, so calls are probably also nice? Calls also feel less weird because people can always hand around the phone.

Honestly, though, I've missed a handful of holidays for various reasons ranging from fine to sad, and I agree they're WAY less of a bummer if you just do something else altogether instead of trying to imitate the whole thing alone. Seasonal things can be nice because then it feels kind of holiday-adjacent (like going for a hike or visiting a pretty park or watching certain movies), but I think as long as you enjoy it, you do you. And special food, just different special food.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 2:26 PM on November 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

I do solo Thanksgiving (in Denver!) most years; it’s not my favorite solo holiday but two things make it better:

1) fancy dinner, with real plates and tablecloth and candles and all. I usually get all the fixins (turkey optional cause I don’t like it) from Marzyks or one other of the other gourmet markets. I like that better than ordering a takeout dinner- too spendy and way too much left over.

2) something that helps me feel grateful and connected to friends or family or community. I renew my donations and memberships for the year or write holiday cards or make out my holiday shopping list. It’s really nice to have quiet thoughtful time to do that ahead of Christmas shenanigans.

FWIW most of the Denverites I know have cancelled Thanksgiving/ Friendsgiving this year, so I think a lot of people will be solo for the first time. I expect to make and get more phone check ins on the day this year than usual.
posted by tinymojo at 3:25 PM on November 12, 2020

I saw this in another Ask Me comment (thanks to whoever posted it!) and got a lot out of it: How to Make Socially Distanced Holidays Actually Feel Special.

I hear you on not wanting to do Zoom, and you should do whatever you want, but if togetherness is what makes Thanksgiving feel special to you it might be worth a try (unless seeing other people's households will make you feel worse). I'm planning to do a few different drop-in Zoom sessions throughout the day for friends, acquaintances, and family like "watch the morning NFL game together", "go on a post-dinner walk together", and "watch Charlie Brown together". If you don't have any other singletons in your circle you could organize a virtual meetup with Metafilter folks?
posted by stellaluna at 3:26 PM on November 12, 2020

My kids are going to be with their other parent, so I'm still trying to figure this out myself. A few ideas I've had: arrange an outdoor picnic somewhere with another solo friend; ignore the day and take a nice long hike. I know it's cold, but that could be part of the adventure?

Don't want to Zoom because I'd be the only one who is solo -- everyone else will be interacting and cooking with real people in person, and I'd feel more pathetic than I already do.
I would re-consider this. I think you could plan to cook something with a computer or ipad or whatever in the kitchen, and have your friends also put their laptop in the kitchen too. I bet people would stop and say hi. So you're spending the day together, not just while you eat, but also while you cook, and you're not totally focused on the Zoom, you know?

I don't have family, and while my friends have invited me, they're hosting family who also won't have been quarantining. Maybe should just take the risk ... I would quarantine so at least I wouldn't be giving it to anyone else.
I just watch to push back on this. If these are folks who don't live together who are gathering together for holidays without quarantining, I suspect they might be taking other risks in their lives, so ... there's a real risk to you, not just you to them.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:18 PM on November 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I, too, will be spending Thanksgiving alone due to the pandemic. I look at it as though we are at war. We are soldiers fighting against covid. Most soldiers must spend time away from family during holidays. They make this sacrifice in order to protect their fellow man. I told my son, "I'm 'deployed' and so I won't be able to spend Thanksgiving with you this year." It is worth it to skip a holiday or two in order to save lives. And I remind myself, "It isn't forever."
posted by SageTrail at 4:27 PM on November 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

I’ll also be on my own for most of thanksgiving - I will probably eat a good amount of junk food for fun and some fancy frozen dinner annnnnd I’ll be watching British baking show and or the crown while I craft all my cards for the great metafilter card exchange. Can’t wait For that day - hope you’ll sign up!!!!

I mean, ymmv for what you would like to do but I have been doing the card exchange for some years over thanksgiving and it is the best...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 4:32 PM on November 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

God knows I am not the person to ask about how to make cooking for one fun so I am not going to go there, and I will probably just watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade (such as it is) and then eat imitation Thanksgiving dinner while watching whatever awful Christmas movies I find on streaming.... but if there's enough interest in Loners Thanksgiving Zoom, we could do that, since lord knows my relatives have no interest in doing that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:40 PM on November 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thanks, y'all. My friends just canceled their out-of-household Thanksgiving, which makes me very sad but also makes me feel less like an outlier. I don't know how to organize a MeFi singleton Thanksgiving, but I will happily sign up. I'm also donating what I usually spend for the holidays to one of our rescue organizations here. Thank you.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 5:17 PM on November 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm going to be solo this Thanksgiving, due to Covid, so I can tell you what I'm planning. A turkey is too much, so I am going to roast a chicken. I have discovered a nice method for this which makes a nice feast with very little effort. You'll need a big frying pan, cast iron is ideal, but so long as it can go into the oven (no plastic handle etc.), it should be fine.
  1. make a bunch of mirepoix (diced carrots, onion, and celery). Make a big pile of it in the frying pan.
  2. place a whole chicken atop the mirepoix.
  3. Cut up a bunch of red potatoes and surround the chicken with them in the pan.
  4. Rub some olive oil on the chicken and season the chicken and potatoes with salt, pepper, and rosemary.
  5. Put a cut up apple into the cavity of the chicken. Or, if you forgot to get an apple, if you've made extra mirepoix, put that in there. (In any case, discard what's in the cavity afterwards.)
  6. Preheat oven to 425F
  7. Pop the pan into the oven (containing the mirepoix, potatoes, and chicken, of course).
  8. Wait 15-20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400F.
  9. Let cook for a total of 1 hour 45 minutes (including the 15-20 minutes of the previous step).
  10. Check the chicken for doneness. (cut between the thigh and body and look for the juices to run clear, or use a meat thermometer (165F).
  11. Remove the pan to the stovetop.
  12. Remove the chicken to a serving platter.
  13. Remove the potatoes to a serving bowl.
  14. Remove the mirepoix to a serving bowl.
  15. At this point you'll have quite a bit of melted chicken fat (schmaltz) left in the pan... this is good.
  16. Pour a glass of white wine into the bowl of mirepoix, then strain the wine back into the pan.
  17. Reduce the pan of wine/melted chicken fat mixture down a bit over the stovetop for a few minutes, then pour into a gravy boat.
Now you've got a roasted chicken, a big bowl of delicious mirepoix, a big bowl of roasted potatoes, and a gravy boat full of delicious sauce to pour over everything.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it really comes down to you toss a bunch of stuff into a big cast iron skillet, toss it in the oven for awhile, and a magically delicious feast of chicken, potatoes and veggies pops out after you wait for about 2 hours, and it's all in one pan, so there's not a lot of clean up required. Cooking the chicken atop the mirepoix ensures the chicken will not be dried out (the mirepoix will produce a lot of steam) and the mirepoix will be soaked with melted chicken fat, so, quite rich.

You do have to carve a chicken when it's done, which can be a bit daunting if you've not done it before.
posted by smcameron at 7:45 PM on November 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

I've been solo for Thanksgiving for the last several years, after being the sole cook for self and then-spouse (and very occasionally guests) for about a quarter-century.

Two things make the solo meal work for me: permission to experiment (and sometimes fail!) and themed meals. I did egg dishes one year (long story), galettes one year (this was really fun!), all-dips-all-the-time one year, Greatest Hits one year (all the things I've ever made that really turned out special), and so on.

Haven't decided what I'll do this year yet... but I'm enjoying the choice process.
posted by humbug at 8:08 PM on November 12, 2020

My brother will be joining my dad and I for dinner. I'd drop in on a MF Thanksgiving while I'm cooking though.
posted by kathrynm at 3:39 PM on November 13, 2020

I have a thought about how to involve family, in a way -

Write letters to them. The kind of heartfelt, "why I love you" letters that you always see people sending each other on Hallmark TV movies. The kind of letter that isn't just a letter, it's a gift.

And really make it an event of a letter, a keepsake of a letter. Draw pictures in each one if you want, use really fancy stationery and super-fancy pens. Stickers for the letters for kids. Go nuts.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:25 PM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Remind yourself that you could very possibly be saving lives by staying home. You are doing the right thing and you can feel good about making that choice.

I know you don't feel like cooking everything just for one, but talk to your local friends. Maybe you could just cook part of a Thanksgiving feast, and they could cook part of it too, and you could swap dishes in a socially-distanced way and go home and eat each others' delicious cooking. Even though you'd still be sitting down alone to eat, you'd still have the connection of cooking for each other. And leftovers!
posted by beandip at 9:22 AM on November 17, 2020

I'm double (triple?) posting here belatedly for any Mefites alone or otherwise who would like to join a small group of us for a silly screenplay reading at 6PM on Thanksgiving Day. You are more than welcome, and I can assure you not everyone will be coupled [clears throat]! For more information, check out my IRL announcement.


posted by Violet Blue at 6:08 PM on November 22, 2020

« Older online show platform   |   Where do I find this material? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments