Ask Marilyn – “Hosting Your First Thanksgiving”

by Marilyn Markel in Learn

Have questions about a recipe, cooking techniques, cooking tools or ingredients? Hosting your first dinner party or holiday gathering and need some ideas or tips?

Marilyn, our Cooking School Manager, is here to answer all of your cooking questions. We will protect your anonymity so feel free to ask anything, even the questions you never dared to ask about cooking. From novice to pro, this advice column is for food people, by food people.

Ask the questions you want answered!

Email with subject, “Ask Marilyn”

Reader Question:

I am hosting my first Thanksgiving this year. I am very concerned about it. What would be your top tips for hosting your first successful Thanksgiving?
- Alicia

Marilyn’s Answer:


There are so many things you can do to make hosting your first Thanksgiving easier on yourself! Plan ahead is probably the top tip I have. When planning the menu, be sure to keep in mind your kitchen and how much oven and stove top space you have in your home. Once you plan your menu look at it carefully and decide what you can do ahead. Casseroles and many side dishes can be made up to 2-3 days ahead. Cranberry relish and anything pickled can be made even further ahead. Some menu items can be made ahead and frozen (e.g. raw cookie dough, pie dough, hand pies, or raw cheese straws) and then baked from frozen the morning of Thanksgiving or a day or so ahead. You can also plan your table well ahead. Table decorations, with the exception of flowers, can be planned way in advance. You can wash and iron your linens, buy candles, plan place cards, e.t.c. long before the big day.

If you have someone on your guest list who makes a great dessert or salad that is a family favorite, enlist them to bring it! Just having one course off your plate can make a huge difference, and people are flattered to be asked to bring a family favorite. As your first Thanksgiving, it would also be great if you served something new for the occasion.  Start testing recipes now and find a “show stopper” that will be a hit and add your signature to the event.  Maybe it will become the next family favorite! While you are planning, feel free to email me with any questions. We offer a number of Thanksgiving classes at Southern Season that you may find very helpful. We also have a Thanksgiving checklist available in store to help you get everything you need while shopping at Southern Season! 


Upcoming Classes

Chapel Hill:
Not Your Ordinary Thanksgiving Sides!“ Thursday 11/14 at 6pm
Turkey Part Deux” Tuesday 11/26 at 4pm

Mt Pleasant:
Creative Thanksgiving Sides” Sunday 11/17 at 2pm
Holiday Desserts” Wednesday 11/20 at 6pm
Kids in the Kitchen: Thanksgiving Cookies & Decorations” Saturday 11/23 at 11am
Kids in the Kitchen: Turkey Part Deux“ Tuesday 11/26 at 4pm