It’s the morning after Thanksgiving. The dishwasher’s humming, the coffee is flowing, and the leftovers are plentiful. (Cold next-day stuffing is an acceptable if not fundamentally superior breakfast for me.) Pajama-clad, well-fed, maybe just a little bit hungover, my family members roll out of our rooms and embark on one of our favorite parts of the holiday: The Postmortem.
These morning hours are sacred in my family. Shed are the pleasantries and the uncomfortable pants of the evening prior. Instead, the events of the night fresh in our minds, we conduct a lengthy meditation on their learnings, culinary and otherwise. Over the years, they’ve made Thanksgiving feel all the more jovial and less stressful to boot. And it will help you and yours feel that way too.
What constitutes a “learning,” you might ask? Let’s start with the practical.
Every Thanksgiving feast has room for improvement—owning up to this fallibility is the first step in overcoming it. Maybe this year’s turkey was a smidge too dry, the mashed potatoes just a little bit runny. Perhaps the pecan pie was absolutely ravaged while the apple was left untouched. One year, we got a little too tipsy and let the duck hang out in the oven for a beat longer than it needed, and it emerged drier than ideal; the next year, with a closer eye on the timer and a lighter pour on the wine, it came out plush and juicy. If applied correctly, these learnings can optimize every Thanksgiving to follow, meaning that—if my calculations are correct— Thanksgiving 2051 will be perfect. My family breaks out pen and paper for this very serious session—others might even prefer a spreadsheet.
Then, there are the interpersonal learnings—in other words, all-in-good-fun gossip pertaining to your social and/or familial orbit. This (lighthearted!) sharing and gabbing makes for an important bonding moment, particularly for family members who don’t see each other enough in the hustle and bustle of real life. Tea, spilled kindly and appropriately, will strengthen your family ties, research. It’s time to cull and share everyone’s annual updates on school, work, and relationships—and embarrassing, er, noteworthy anecdotes. (No malice here, I promise.) He got food poisoning at what hot new restaurant? That person’s moving where? She’s engaged to whom? Basically, if you picked up a juicy little bit of intel in your quadrant of the table the night before, it’s only your responsibility to share it with your fellow Postmortem participants. Sit spaced out across the Thanksgiving table to cover maximum conversational ground.
If your Thanksgiving just so happens to spawn a Gossip Girl-style, napkin-tossing feud, set to Jason Derulo’s “Whatcha Say,” the Postmortem’s your time to unpack all of that. The van der Woodsen family could’ve used a Postmortem.
Of course, there’s no better Postmortem fuel than a dish MacGyvered from Thanksgiving leftovers. My colleagues delivered me plenty of inspiration without hesitation, plucked from their own family traditions.
“TURKEY SOUP,” says editorial operations manager Kate Kassin, caps and all. “Have it with rice and the leftover meat for lunch.” Food editor Shilpa Uskokovic makes a hearty turkey melt. For art director Hazel Zavala, it’s mole with leftover turkey. Commerce producer Alaina Chou says she wakes up to the smell of her dad making a stuffing and turkey hash with eggs. Commerce editor Carina Finn’s recommendation: “pie with ice cream for breakfast ✨.” Or you can take things off-site and save the leftovers for tomorrow—for executive editor Sonia Chopra, it’s “diner breakfast” all the way.
For me, stuffing straight from the fridge. Did I say that already?
Whatever shape your inaugural Postmortem may take, the conversation will carve out space for reflection, closeness, and thoughtful menu tweaks, extricated from the bells and whistles and stress of the holiday. Just make sure to eat the leftovers while they’re still cold—you’d hate to let them get to room temperature.