I’m Good Luv, Enjoy: How To Deal With Relatives Who Can’t Cook On Thanksgiving

November 21, 2018  |  
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Ambrosia, Thanksgiving sides


Thanksgiving is the time of year when food is the total star of the show. This means that you want to make sure that everything you’re eating is top quality– which means you’ll likely go back for second and third helpings and even a to-go plate.

Unfortunately, every family has at least one auntie or cousin who, despite their best efforts, simply can’t cook but always wants to. The dilemma here is how exactly to deal with their lack of culinary expertise without hurting their feelings and it’s actually easier than you think. Let us show you how.

Family at thanksgiving dinner table

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Be Polite

As the saying goes, “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.” This basically means that being nice gets you further than being rude, so use this approach when dealing with a family member who can’t cook. Try to be as polite as you can about their lack of cooking skills or the underwhelming nature of their dish. You definitely don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings when Thanksgiving is supposed to be about bringing the family together. Be gentle.


Loving father helping his son cut vegetables in the kitchen

Source: Getty

Make Them Feel Included

If you want to keep the non-cooking family member busy and out of your hair, you have to make them feel included in the occasion in some way or another. Have them act as your sous chef, let them set the table, give them the option to help with serving. Anything you can think of to keep them from actually cooking while making them feel useful and appreciated is what you’re going for.

African couple cooking in kitchen

Source: JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty

Suggest Other Recipes They Should Try

Obviously, whatever recipe they’re using is not working, so this sets the stage for the perfect time for you to suggest some other recipes they should try.

You can suggest recipes for the dish that they are notoriously bad at preparing or offer them a host of new alternatives instead. Just remember to suggest with kindness and don’t be too harsh.

Bowl of cleaning products and feather duster on wooden floor

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Let Them Clean Up

It’s a rule that’s as old as time, those who don’t (or in this case can’t) cook have to clean. There are more dishes to wash on Thanksgiving than the entire year combined, so to help you lessen the load recruit your relative that can’t cook.

Cleaning up has just enough responsibility to it that they will feel important and apart of the evening. Also, make it fun by turning on some music or having a few laughs.

Summer Wine Cocktails Alcoholic Beverage

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Put Them In Charge Of The Alcohol

The great thing about bringing the alcohol to the Thanksgiving celebration is that it involves absolutely no cooking, exactly what you want from your non-cooking relative.

Give them a list of all the alcohol you need for the evening and let them take the lead. You can also take things a step further and give them a few cocktail recipes to try out with the alcohol they brought.

African American family watching TV in living room

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Give Them Entertainment Duties

Before and after your Thanksgiving feast, you’re going to need some form of entertainment to keep everyone satisfied and content. This is the perfect opportunity to give your relative the reins of the entertainment duties instead of cooking something awful.

Trust them enough to let all the entertainment be something they choose, whether it be movies, games, TV shows or even a dance-off. Just let them come up with whatever they think the whole family will enjoy.

family cooking in the kitchen

Source: Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

Offer To Help Them With Their Dish(es)

If your relative absolutely insists on cooking on Thanksgiving (even when they definitely shouldn’t,) the only thing you can do is offer to help them out with it to ensure it tastes better than normal.

When you offer to help, be sure to frame it under the guise of assistance and suggestions instead of criticizing. Once you do that, hopefully they will let you help and then you can ease in the proper way to prepare the dish without them actually realizing what you’re doing.

Relationships: Multi-generation family prepares dinner in kitchen.

Source: fstop123 / Getty

Point Out Their Other Talents

Massaging someone’s ego always softens the blow and when you’re dealing with a family member who can’t cook, you’ll definitely need to use this technique.

If they are great at home decor use this as an opportunity to tell them that the house simply won’t look as good on Thanksgiving if they don’t decorate it. Or if they are the life of the party, tell them just how much everyone looks forward to being around them during family functions.

Family laughing at home

Source: Robert Nicholas / Getty

Lighten The Mood

Try to keep things light and upbeat. Leading with bad moods and negativity can easily lead to a family argument that the holidays are so well-known for.

Keep the vibe positive and filled with laughs and your relative will be so busy having fun that they won’t even think about cooking…hopefully.

North american mixed-race couple in the kitchen

Source: MmeEmil / Getty

Realize They May Not Get Better In The Kitchen

If you’ve tried on more than one occasion to help them out in the cooking department, but they still don’t get it, you need to accept the fact that it may never happen.

It’s entirely possible that their cooking won’t improve and you just have to go along with it. Besides, if that’s the only drama you have during Thanksgiving you have a lot to be thankful for.

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