The preferred Thanksgiving Day meal time

I enjoyed a lovely and perfect Thanksgiving yesterday.

In the company of some of our best friends, we shared food, conversation and football. We chatted about our work and our children. We laughed at stories told from a year gone by. There was great debate over whether or not I am a hipster (I’m not).

In addition to the food and conversation, my son, Charlie, took more steps yesterday than he has at any other time in his life.

My daughter, Clara, who only eats fruits, breads, cheeses, yogurt, bacon (she doesn’t realize that it’s meat) and some vegetables, enjoyed a dinner slightly different than the rest of us and was understandably hungry when we arrived home that night,, but this was to be expected.

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It was truly a perfect day.

This post is not meant to impugn the perfection of the day in any way, but the only thing that could’ve made the day better was a change in start time. I believe that noon is the ideal time for the Thanksgiving Day meal. I have hosted Thanksgiving many times in my past, and whenever I did, food was on the table as close to 12:00 as possible.

A noontime meal provides these key benefits:

1. The meal does not interfere in any way with football. The first game of the day kicks off just as you finish eating.

2. The fabled late day turkey sandwich is now a possibility and a necessity. When I hosted Thanksgivings in the past, I made sure to have the best breads and cheeses for these late day sandwiches, which were oftentimes better than the meal itself.

3. Desserts can be eaten much later in the day, after the meal has been better digested. There’s nothing better than eating pie two hours after the meal the first football game enters halftime.

4. It eliminates the need for the awkward pre-Thanksgiving Day meal. Rather than eating a lunch that doesn’t consist of turkey or ham or skipping lunch entirely in order to save room, make the Thanksgiving meal the breakfast, lunch and dinner of the day.

5. It affords a drinker who’s had one too many glasses of wine during the meal the time needed to sober up.

6. Best of all, it transforms Thanksgiving into a all day affair, which is what it should be. 

I realize that the noontime meal is a rarity. Other than the ones that I have hosted the holiday, I have never experienced one myself, but I would argue that the closer to noon, the better.

J. Bryan Lowder of Slate suggests that the perfect time for a Thanksgiving dinner is 8:00 PM, claiming that:

“the harsh winter light streaming violently through the windows casts an unappealing pall across (the meal). Candles cannot hope to compete with the sun, so everyone looks and feels washed out and, as a result, prone to petty palpitations and the flaring up of old resentments.”

Apparently Lowder dines in some horrible, post-apocalyptic world, so if this is the case for you and the appearance of the food and your guests is critical to the success of the holiday, perhaps an 8:00 PM meal is a good idea.

But for those like me who live in a world where winter light doesn’t violently stream, candles burn with a fairly consistent flame and my friends look good in almost any light, the noontime meal might be something to consider.

Yesterday’s hosts admitted that there was definite appeal to the noontime meal save one:

The need to rise at some ungodly hour to begin preparations.

While it is true that you may need to begin cooking the turkey as early as 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, once the bird is in the oven, you can return to bed for a few hours and awaken to  house that already smells of Thanksgiving.

Not bad. Right?

I don’t know J. Bryan Lowder at all, and I’ve never read any of his work, but I don’t think I’d like to spend an evening dining with him anyway. The claim that “everyone knows that dinner—especially a dinner party—is served at the hallowed hour of 8:00 PM” is enough to make me think he’s at least a  pretentious snob and possibly worse.

This may not be a fair assessment at all, but all I have to judge is about 700 words.

Lowder’s only concession to his 8:00 start time is the admission that it’s inconvenient for anyone who has traveled from more than two hours away. But he also asserts that these people should probably be staying the night anyway.

Knowing nothing about this guy, I have to assume that he’s about 25 years-old, lives in Brooklyn, enjoys Thanksgiving with six other hipster friends in an apartment somewhere in Williamsburg, and may actually live on the set of HBO’s Girls. Lowder has no idea what “staying the night” might mean for a family of three or four with small children or a host whose home isn’t blessed with a guest room or even an elderly grandparent.

I know it’s hard to think beyond a two foot radius at times, but c’mon.

Unless your Thanksgiving excludes children, anyone over 55 and anyone traveling more than 30 minutes from their home, an 8:00 mealtime is simply insane.

I don’t even think a regular dinner party should begin at 8:00. But the again, I’ve never been very interested in what “everyone knows.”