Thanksgiving is a time for families to get together for a meal, to give thanks for a successful harvest, to appreciate and be grateful for those who are loved and to eat a meal prepared by loving hands. However, in the era of social distancing and the coronavirus, all of the above is probably not nearly possible.

It may sound strange, but consider technology. Systems such as Zoom, Skype and FaceTime are being used to conduct meetings and classes, why not meals and family gatherings? For instance, each household involved in your gathering could agree on the same menu and then each household makes that menu and at the agreed upon time, “Zooms” in for dinner. Amazon Echo Show or the Google Nest Hub Max, are two that offer ways that provide increased connectivity.

With a limited guest list also comes the option for an entirely new menu, something you may have been considering for some time. Or you may, because of these uncertain times, want to keep with the comfort offered by tradition.

If dinner will just be the immediate members of your household, consider ordering food. This not only decreases the work load and stress (other people do some of the work), if you order food from a restaurant to be picked up, it helps support a local business during the pandemic. You can also order specialty foods online. If you find your guest list smaller this year, consider scaling back not only in size and amount of food, but type. Who says Thanksgiving has to be a turkey? What about a chicken? Or thinking completely outside the box — pasta anyone?

Large amounts of time on their hands has turned many people into bakers. If you are a baker, consider sending something homemade to a loved one far away. Nothing says, “love” and “we’re thinking of you,” than cookies or homemade quick breads. Donating time or money to a cause you believe in is also a good way to acknowledge Thanksgiving. The pandemic has left many people grieving and in despair, experiencing their first Thanksgiving without loved ones. Many are unemployed, or alone. Checking in on neighbors to see what they need is the best way to show you care.

Now, a word about food safety. Whether you make a dinner from scratch, a combination of take out, a modification of Thanksgiving meals of years past or a combination, the rules of food safety do not change. Turkeys need to be thawed in the refrigerator, not on the counter, and cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot until serving time. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of serving to prevent the growth of bacteria which can cause food-borne illnesses (food poisoning).

Finally, remember why you are together, whether in person or with the help of technology. People gather together at Thanksgiving to “give thanks.” Try a new tradition: have everyone go around the room or table and say one thing they are grateful for this year; everyone has something. Write down each one and make copies for everyone. These can be posted on the refrigerator, or sent to those far away, as a reminder of the people with whom we spent the most unusual Thanksgiving ever.

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Ann Bloom lives in Enterprise and has worked for the OSU Extension Service for 15 years as a nutrition educator. She studied journalism and education at Washington State University.

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