How to Have a Satisfying Thanksgiving on Zoom (Honest)

Don't Kill Grandma, Stay Put This Thanksgiving and Zoom : Reshma Gopaldas

The warnings are everywhere. On TV, radio, even NYC sidewalks. Cancel Thanksgiving! is the rallying cry. And while I’ve been pleading with all of you on social media to stay home–exactly as the CDC and this particularly blunt graffiti artist say–I’m not heeding that advice. But it’s not a “do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do” bait and switch.

The One and I are going to see Momma Leite, but we’ve been isolating. So has she. We’ve gotten COVID tests for the fourth time (all negative), so we’re hazarding the road trip. Basically, we’re bringing our antiseptic bubble to her antiseptic bubble.

Of course, not everyone can isolate for two weeks. And getting a COVID test this close to the holiday is impossible in most places. But there are still ways to have a special day this Thanksgiving–even when you’re not together.

If all your relatives live nearby, as my father’s side of the family does in Somerville, MA, and they want to have a large in-person dinner, well, they can’t, Blanche. But a very clever Instagram follower of mine named Betsy shared what she’s doing, and I thought it was brilliant. Instead of one person hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the entire clan, her family’s doing potluck this year. But how does that solve the no-contact problem, nimrod? I can hear you asking. Here’s the genius part: Each cook will make one dish for the dinner and divide it and pack it in containers. On Thanksgiving Day, they’ll drop off these family care packages with the doorman, on the doorstep, or in the mailbox of each of the other family members. (Think contactless Uber Eats delivery but via family members.)

Once the whole meal has been delivered and reheated, everyone sits at their various tables, across from their desktop or laptop with Zoom a-blazing. Can I have an amen! Everyone’s eating the same exact food at the same exact time, which means everyone gets your ah-mah-zing sausage stuffing as well as your aunt’s hideous stewed green-beans. The only difference this time is she can’t watch you like a velociraptor to make sure you don’t flick them off the table. (There are benefits to remote dining.) And with kids being kids, they can still text each other during the meal, but instead of doing it from across the table, they’ll do it across town.

This round-robin tactic can work even if you’re scattered across the country. Granted, it’s harder and more of a pain in the ass, but at least it can bring a sense of normalcy and comfort to these exceedingly abnormal and uncomfortable times. Sharing Thanksgiving recipes, rather than actual food, with other members of the family allows everyone to have the same dishes–if not exactly the same quality–as everyone else. Yes, you might have to trust your sister, who’s the worst baker in North America, to make your famous pecan pie. And, yes, you’ll probably have to grit your teeth as she declares over Zoom that you must’ve been buying pies from a bakery all these years because there’s no way on earth that the recipe works. But we’ve all been gritting our teeth during the holidays forever, so why stop now?

In the end, however you spend your day–on Zoom or not–please make sure that it is, above all, safe.

And if I haven’t said it enough throughout the year, let me take this moment to express our sincere gratitude for your readership, loyalty, warmth, and kindness. It’s been a rough 268 days for all of us, and we’re humbled and thankful to have been there with you throughout it.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. We are staying home, not visiting my husband’s mother – she is 100 years old. Although we can isolate, and have been, it isn’t worth the risk. I would never forgive myself if I picked up Covid at the grocery store last week from some idiot not wearing a mask, and then gave it to her before I showed symptoms. It is only one year, we can talk on the phone this year. As my cousin sent to me in a meme, better to have a Zoom Thanksgiving than an ICU Christmas. We’ll bake a turkey at home, scale down our meal, make lots of phone calls and Zoom calls, and count our blessings including our health. Be safe, and have a great day.

    1. Carole, that all sounds great! We definitely would’ve stayed home, but since my mom’s a recent widow and terribly lonely (my dad died just before COVID), we decide to take the plunge. I wish you and your husband a great Turkey Day!