10 Steps to Getting a Thanksgiving Invitation

Or, 'How to Glom on to Someone Else's Feast'


Turkey Day is a mere 16 days away and counting. If you already know where you're eating this year, this is optional reading. If you're unsure of your Thanksgiving plans at this relatively late date, the clock is ticking—loudly.

Keep reading, and I'll tell you how to get yourself invited to someone else's Thanksgiving feast.

I am a master Thanksgiving invitation garnerer. I speak from experience. I lost my parents when I was a teenager, so I had to develop this expertise early on or face a lifetime of Swanson Hungry Man turkey dinners. Knowing how difficult Thanksgiving can be for the uninvited, my wife and I make sure any strays we know are invited to our admittedly fat-laden but oh-so-delicious repast.

So here's a 10-step moocher's guide to getting invited to Thanksgiving dinner, practically guaranteed to land you at least one invitation you'd actually accept.

Step 1: Choose Your Marks Wisely

Today, when you get to work, start asking the colleagues you actually like what they're doing for Thanksgiving. Make sure they're going someplace local—forget about anyone flying or driving more than a half hour away.

Step 2: Butter Them Up

part of a Serious ThanksgivingIf one or more of them explains in great detail about the heritage, organic, or wild turkey they're serving or the fabulous cornbread, oyster, and sausage stuffing their family cooks every year, you've got yourself a keeper. Respond by telling them how awesome that sounds. Oohs and ahhs should greet these people's descriptions. If any of your co-workers are well-mannered or generously spirited, they'll respond to your oohs and ahhs by asking you what you're doing for Thanksgiving.

Step 3: Play It Cool

Explain nonchalantly that you don't really have any plans this year, that your family lives too far away, and that you didn't get it together (or couldn't afford) to get a reasonably priced plane ticket. Do not sound morose, forlorn, or downtrodden. Nobody wants a self-pitying sad sack at their Thanksgiving.

Step 4: Demonstrate Your Interest

If you don't snare an invite today or even tomorrow, don't fret. After a couple of days (on Thursday if you're starting this process today), tell the folks whose Thanksgiving meal sounded particularly delicious that you can't stop thinking about that crazy-good stuffing or deep-fried turkey they described. The pleasure they hear in your voice may get you your first invitation. But maybe not. Don't worry. You're in pretty good shape at this point.

Step 5: Ask for a Recipe While Dropping a Hint

On Friday morning, inform those same people you'd love to have the recipe for one or more of those dishes that sounded so good. Ask how long those obscenely rich mashed potatoes made with tons of butter and heavy cream will keep—because, eating alone, you're going to have tons of leftovers. If this doesn't get you at least one invitation by the time you leave work, your co-workers are a heartless bunch.

Step 6: Lean on Your Friends

It's Friday night and you're probably going to be hanging out with your friends over the weekend. Repeat steps 1 through 5 with them. See if you get any Thanksgiving nibbles.

Step 7: Lose Some of the Subtlety

It's now Monday, November 12. If you don't have an invitation yet, do not—repeat, do not—let desperation creep into your voice when you ask your colleagues what they did this weekend. Instead, tell them you went on a pie hunt on Saturday. You were searching for the best individually sized pies you could find at the bakeries around town. Inform them that you have, in fact, located the best apple and pumpkin pies in your area but that they don't come in individual sizes. This should start a lively discussion about a.) where to find the best pies in your area and b.) whether Thanksgiving pies must be home-baked and who bakes them.

Step 8: Deciding Among Multiple Invitations

If the pie gambit doesn't get you at least one invitation, I'd be really surprised. In fact, by next Wednesday my guess is that you'll have at least two invitations in hand. Multiple invitations are what we call a high-class problem. Try to ascertain how each of your prospective hosts feels about his or her menu and guest list before making your decision. A great Thanksgiving requires some seriously delicious food and a fun bunch to share it with. If any of your marks seem less than confident about either element, prioritize accordingly.

Step 9: Desperate Measures

If you're still invitationless two weeks from today, on November 20, start talking about the Thanksgiving Day football games—how the Lions are much improved this year and how much you either hate or love the Cowboys, depending on what your host feels about them, of course. Explain how last year, when you were watching the game by yourself at home, you threw your microwave dinner at the TV in disgust. This may seem desperate, but hey, it's three days before Thanksgiving. What other choice do you have?

Step 10: Sweeten the Deal

Make sure the pies you offer to bring are top notch. I've found that bringing world-class pies practically guarantees a return invite.


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