Being stranded, in most scenarios, is bad news. In theory, it makes for a great plot device: Cast Away, Lost, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. In practice, it’s less enchanting: The Island of Misfit Toys, feral children, the Left Behind series. Somewhere in between, when unforeseen circumstances suddenly leave you unable to join your family for Thanksgiving, you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, welcome your closest fellow strays into your home, and fly it fast and loose with the world’s scrappiest Friendsgiving.
Let’s get a move on! We haven’t any time to waste.
Planning the menu
Make dinner a potluck. Take charge of a dish or two and task guests with sides. Take all dietary restrictions into consideration. Start a group chat if you haven’t already and make sure you don’t end up with two chia puddings as I did during the ill-fated Fiber Incident of 2013.
Embrace the one-pot entrée. A sturdy Dutch oven does most of the heavy lifting, travels from stovetop to oven, easily feeds a crowd, and if yours happens to be as beautiful as mine, takes permanent residency atop my stove. I’m making a taco bar for my guests this year: shredded chicken for carnivores and roasted yams for herbivores. Toppings include corn kernels, shredded cheese, refried beans, pico de gallo, and cilantro—carefully omitted from entrées in case any guests have that genetic condition that makes it tastes like soap.
Skip a specialty cocktail and opt for the fanciest flavored seltzer you can find. On its own, CBD-infused seltzer becomes a conversation piece about casual drug use, microdosing, ayahuasca, and head highs versus body highs. I haven’t tried this, but I have a feeling you could pour vodka directly into the can and save yourself having to wash champagne flutes at the end of the night.
Setting the table
A cleared off media console doubles as a buffet altar when table real estate is too precious to squander. Allow attendees to serve themselves.
You may have to get creative with seating. Pull out stools and desk chairs from other rooms. In a pinch, you can even utilize your sofa as an impromptu banquette.
Investing in beautiful ceramics is to adulthood what eating Tide Pods is to adolescence. Not having to empty dishes from one vessel to another to serve has become an aspiration that gets me out of bed in the morning. Straight from the oven, any course looks downright striking in Yves Klein blue, doubling as a centerpiece of sorts. You should see my cobblers in this thing. The saunter from kitchen to table with this objet steaming my bosom with the scent of cinnamon and apples—it’s practically a burlesque show.
Setting the mood
Alexa, play Etta James.
Several of my favorite board and card games are available on Amazon Prime. Assess the strengths of your group of friends, and pick a game that panders to their word association prowess, artistic inclinations, or capacity to lie.
Looking the part
A fringe benefit of hosting dinner at your house is you can truly wear whatever the hell you like. I’m big on pajamas as evening wear. If I unbutton a silky pajama top to open heart surgery-accommodating depths, I look very elegant. Bird-like, even. I often wear these faux fur slides I bought for $10 on Amazon to help stop the hounds from barking when I’m on my feet all day cooking. In a dimly lit room, they could pass for designer. In a normally lit room, it looks like I got dressed in a chamber with depleting oxygen levels.
When it comes to being a top-tier host, it's all in the smallest details. I’m constantly checking in on my friends, offering them coffee at least three or four times over the course of the meal. To make them feel comfortable at all costs, I ensure my bathroom is stocked with toilet paper and a stack of clean hand towels. I also keep the world’s most elegant toiletries (tangerine and ylang-ylang poo drops, pink pepper and lavender room spray, clove mouthwash) nearby to make my friends feel like they’re visiting a boutique hotel in Dubai rather than a haunted two-bedroom in what Trip Advisor called “the home of Brooklyn’s ugliest freegans.”
Hoping for the best and planning for the worst
Leave plenty of room for flexibility. Even if you overbake your cobbler or underbake your turkey (earning yourself the nickname “Salmonella Fitzgerald”), it’s hard to mess up a Friendsgiving. There’s always Seamless, and I have a restaurant that delivers crèpes practically on speed dial. At the end of the night, you’ll get to make dishwashing seem almost fun with the right playlist (“Ruin My Life” by Zara Larsson, on repeat), and your could-be-bigger apartment will feel snug and distended with the warmth of camaraderie. If you followed my advice and wore pajamas to dinner, you can just go straight from the dining table to bed, with the boundless, inextinguishable glow that comes with being grateful for good food and better friendship. Isn’t that what this holiday’s all about?
Photographed by the author.