Thanksgiving Rookie Keeps Her Cool

Holly Tabor is hosting Thanksgiving for 14 family members in Mountain View, Calif. She pauses before putting the turkey in the oven to talk about how she's trying not to get overwhelmed.

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RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Okay. So it is Thanksgiving. The parade is happening, and lots of people are eating big dinners. And I don't know about you, Mike, but I myself have never hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. I mean…

MIKE PESCA, host:

No, I never hosted one.

MARTIN: …I go. I bring bread and I eat a lot, and I even do the dishes sometimes. But the whole notion of hosting an entire family dinner for Thanksgiving is not my idea of a good time. But, for some people, they have decided to make this commitment to their families. And we decided to check in with someone who is doing that very thing today, making her very first Thanksgiving feast. Holly Tabor is on the phone. Holly, are you there?

Ms. HOLLY TABOR: Yes, I am. Hi.

MARTIN: Hi. Good morning. It's early. You live in San Francisco with your husband and two kids. And I know it's - again, it's like dark outside still, but what's happening? What kind of preparations are you planning on - are you going to go back to bed after this, or do you need to go check on the turkey?

Ms. TABOR: I'm going to be in - I'm actually talking to you from in my car in my garage, because there's so many people sleeping in the house, that that's the only place where I can talk to you and be sure I'm not going to wake anybody up. But, yeah. I think I probably won't go back to sleep. I'll probably get up and try to do a few things. I started making some stuff day before yesterday, because I was kind of worried that I would run out of time. So - and few things are made, a few things aren't made, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I'm feeling a little nervous, but it's looking pretty good so far.

MARTIN: And how many people are there? How many people are coming?

Ms. TABOR: There are 10 people staying at my house, and there are 12 people coming to dinner.

MARTIN: Wow.

Ms. TABOR: Yeah. It's the most people I think I've ever had before, and it's certainly the most food I've ever had before. And also, I was listening to you guys before - the idea - the various foods that we expect on Thanksgiving…

PESCA: Yeah.

Ms. TABOR: …and the constant pressure to have them not all fail. If, like, one of them fails, I think it's okay. But I need to have most of them come off at least looking like what people expect them to look like on Thanksgiving.

MARTIN: Did people tell you what - I mean, did they really call you and say, Holly, if we don't have yams with marshmallows, I'm going to freak out. You have to make those.

Ms. TABOR: They did. They did. Not like the yams or the marshmallows, but my sister recently moved to the Midwest, and she decided she had to have green bean casserole because she's had a blast a couple of years at Thanksgiving she's gone to and decided she really liked it, even though she says it's horribly bad for you. I thought she never had green bean casserole.

MARTIN: It's like canned mushroom soup and dried onion rings over beans.

Ms. TABOR: Yes.

MARTIN: I mean, that is (unintelligible).

PESCA: Why don't they just call it canned mushroom soup casserole?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TABOR: (unintelligible)…

PESCA: That would sell.

Ms. TABOR: …for a while, it doesn't look that appetizing, I have to say, in the recipe. But, you know, I love my sister, so…

MARTIN: Sure.

Ms. TABOR: …I'm going to make it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: That's good. Did you - what other - I mean, you're making a turkey, right?

Ms. TABOR: I actually bought the turkey pre-prepared. I really debated that one through, but I decided in the end that it was better to buy that one pre-prepared and warm it up and focus on the sides, because if I blew the turkey, that's kind of hard to recover from. It's like that whole, the movie "The Christmas Story," where the dogs come in and eat the turkey.

MARTIN: Yeah.

Ms. TABOR: I really didn't want that happening, even metaphorically, so I just decided to buy the turkey pre-prepared. But the other things we're making homemade.

PESCA: Well, we hope you don't shoot your eye out, kid, speaking of "Christmas Story."

Ms. TABOR: I'll work hard on that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: But what I wanted to ask was do you feel like you've almost been thrust into having to do things a certain way, by, I don't know, the Norman Rockwell pictures or whatever society's expectations of Thanksgiving are? You're in a really tight bind?

Ms. TABOR: A little bit. I think partly because I think my kids are kind of my buyout a little bit. If something goes wrong, I can say, oh, you know, it's was really hard to do with the kids.

PESCA: Yeah. That's why we have kids.

MARTIN: Totally.

PESCA: Yeah.

Ms. TABOR: And I already decided, I think, with the table, I was like, I don't really have a tablecloth long enough to put on the table for this many people. And in the end, I decided to put like butcher bock paper on with crayons and decided we're going to do that instead, just to kind of…

MARTIN: Perfect.

Ms. TABOR: …make it more simple and get a no, blame it on the kids and say, oh, the kids would ruin a really nice tablecloth. So I feel some pressure, but mostly, it's just really fun to have them here. We haven't had a Thanksgiving all together since 1993, and certainly since we were all adults, my siblings and I. So it's kind of fun to get to do it together, and also to have it -we've celebrated Christmas together since then, but not Thanksgiving, and I think it kind of makes Thanksgiving a little bit more meaningful to do it all together this time.

PESCA: With the butcher block paper, you know, even if the food doesn't come out at the right time, rousing games of hangman…

Ms. TABOR: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: …can occupy people. But that's what people always say to me. It's not just cooking the food, it's timing the food.

MARTIN: Yeah.

PESCA: So it's hot at all the right time. You have big stoves…

Ms. TABOR: I'm really worried about that. Yeah.

PESCA: Yeah.

Ms. TABOR: I think that's what I'm going to do after I get off the phone with you, is sit down and write down exactly how long everything has to cook, and exactly where it's going to go in the oven.

MARTIN: I hope you have help. Are people helping you? Is everyone just like, sleeping in or…

Ms. TABOR: You know, well, it's five in the morning.

MARTIN: Well, that's true.

Ms. TABOR: Everybody else is sleeping in. But, you know, they're helping. My sisters are all - were pretty good cooks, so they're helping with chopping and preparing stuff. And my brother is entertaining my kids, which is almost more important than the cooking, because it's really hard to cook and entertain kids at the same time. So…

PESCA: What about advice? Is the best advice you've been given by family members, or are there any Web sites or resources? Like I would just - when you were saying timing the food, why do you have to figure it out by yourself? There must be some expert you could turn to.

Ms. TABOR: Yeah. I haven't seen anything for timing at all. I mean, I definitely looked up a lot of recipes. I definitely used the Web to look up Thanksgiving recipes this year, so that was really helpful. But for timing it all, I haven't found anything that really - actually, I found one thing on a couple Web sites that were, like, your first Thanksgiving, do it, you know, do it easy. Do it well…

(Soundbite of laugher)

Ms. TABOR: …but, of course, I decided all these recipes were too boring.

PESCA: Yeah, too late for that.

Ms. TABOR: Yes.

PESCA: You have the sister who wants the green bean casserole, Mr. helpful Web site?

Ms. TABOR: No. Well, I did get the green bean casserole off of a Web site, but no, it was not the helpful, easy Web site.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TABOR: I think, yeah, there's a small chance that the green bean casserole will come out an hour after everything else, but at least she'll have it. And then she'll be happy. So…

MARTIN: Do you guys have a pretty good dynamic? You know, holidays can be stressful, especially when you're, you know, you're in the thrust of trying to make this big dinner. I mean it's just - are there subjects that your family just doesn't talk about during the holiday times, or do you guys kind of decide to check your differences at the door when you sit down at the table?

PESCA: This is your chance to get it off your chest now.

MARTIN: Yeah. They won't hear. It's five o'clock. They're sleeping.

Ms. TABOR: We get along pretty well. There are some politics, but, you know -talks about politics, but mostly we're on the same page. So we have passionate discussions about that, but nobody's really disagreeing with each other. Nobody, you know, gets crazy when they drink too much wine. I think that's pretty good. I've been to other Thanksgivings at other people's houses where there are more issues than my family. I think the other thing, though, is both my sisters rented a car this year when they came, and I think that was the idea that they could escape if they needed to escape.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: You always need a exit.

Ms. TABOR: Milk? You need milk? We can get it for you, right now. I'm going to go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TABOR: But I think they're happy they have an escape hatch if they need to get away. So…

MARTIN: Well, Holly Tabor, thank you so much for coming. I know you've got -for being on the show - I know you've got a lot to do, so I'm going to let you go so you can make those lists.

Ms. TABOR: Well, thanks. Well, Happy Thanksgiving to you guys. It was fun to be on.

MARTIN: Happy Thanksgiving.

Ms. TABOR: Okay. Take care. Bye-bye.

MARTIN: Man, that stresses me out just talking with her.

PESCA: Well, I felt a little guilty. Every second, she gives us a quip is, you know, that much further away from her sister's green bean casserole.

MARTIN: I know. I know. What are you going to do?

PESCA: Well…

MARTIN: Good thing we're not cooking.

PESCA: Yeah, believe me. For anyone who is - that's the sort of idea that my wife, if she is listening to this show, she'll say, yeah. I can't believe you'd even raise that issue.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: So, as we just heard, it is Thanksgiving. We're going to bring you a story about a family.

MARTIN: Who'll be…

PESCA: This one is about a mom, a daughter and eBay.

MARTIN: This is a really good story. It's one that we did a few months ago, so you want to stay tuned for that. This is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.

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