Give Thanks and Give Dinner Parties

November 17, 2015
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Are you hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year? Why not show your appreciation for the planet and kick off the holidays to a sustainable start by making dinner just a little greener? For a simple and elegant dinner party, check out our eco-friendly tips.

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The Food

The greenest dinner party is meatless, but we would never ask you to brave Thanksgiving without a turkey. The potential for disappointed guests would be far too great. However, even the bird’s greatest fans have to admit that factory turkey always seems rather dry and flavorless.

An increasingly popular choice is the Heritage turkey. These “heirloom” breeds are raised outdoors, free to roam the pasture, and eat a varied diet. Unlike factory birds, Heritage turkeys are never fed fillers or antibiotics. They are juicy and succulent and taste the way a turkey is supposed to taste. A bit leaner, the dark meat a bit gamier, they are such a popular choice this year that Bon Aptit Magazine included special instructions on how to handle the birds in this month’s Thanksgiving issue. You won’t find the specifics on the site yet, but here are a couple hints: pull it from the oven at 150° and carve the dark meat more thinly than the white.

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Despite the inevitable fuss over turkeys, most guests really look forward to the side dishes. Visit your local farmer’s market for nearly everything you’ll need to make beautiful (carbon-neutral!) sides. In San Diego this time of year you’ll find beets, carrots, celery, herbs and citrus fruits, potatoes, winter squash, and greens of all kinds. If you’re not planning on baking bread or pastries yourself, the farmer’s market is the perfect place to snatch up a few of those, as well. Bring plenty of those hip reusable shopping totes!

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The Drink

Ah, wine. Maybe you’ve yet to meet a varietal you don’t love, or maybe you’re not overly interested in vintages and bottlings. Whatever your personal taste, it’s safe to say that your guests will expect wine to make an appearance on your Thanksgiving table. What are the best choices for Thanksgiving dinner? There are many acceptable options, from sparkling to Riesling. However, the two that work best from appetizer to dessert are Pinot Noir and Malbec. Pinot is low in tannin, has great acidity, and is not too heavy-bodied. This makes it a versatile pairing wine that everyone can enjoy. Pick up an Argentinian Malbec for a similar profile at half the price.

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San Diegans can find excellent organic wine from nearby Temecula; Ponte Winery in particular has made great green advancements.

Want to offer an alternative to vin? Before Prohibition, hard apple cider was the most popular drink in the country. Why not celebrate Thanksgiving with the original American beverage? This time of year, apples are at their best. Try the hard apple cider from Julian – pick it up at most any market, or for a fun autumn outing before the cooking begins, you can visit the mill! Don’t forget to recycle those bottles!

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The Prep

Give your house a once-over with non-toxic cleaners – these are better for your family and for the planet. Some of our favorite eco-friendly cleaning lines include Mrs. Meyers and Method. They not only get the job done, but they smell great and are the packaging is recyclable and made from recycled material, too!

Plan your menu and shopping schedule in advance to avoid multiple trips to the market.

Turn down the thermostat; the combination of guests and cooking will heat your home plenty.

The Decor

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Use real plates, napkins, and utensils. They’re better for the environment and they look better, too. Unless you’re eating on a folding card table, you can skip the tablecloth. Break out a runner or a simple wooden board if you like, but let the food take center stage. Thanksgiving dinner is all about the bounty of the harvest, so why not display all that beautiful, seasonal fruit you picked up right there on the table? Ripe, perfumed pears and persimmons are just as lovely as flowers – paired with maybe a few beeswax candles, you can call your table complete!

The Aftermath

Compost scraps (you do compost, don’t you?) If not, toss veggie scraps in the green waste bin and then add this to your Christmas list.

Rejoice in the wonderful news that modern dishwashers are much more water-friendly than washing by hand (they use only around 20% as much water).

Sleep it off – you’ve earned it!

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