It’s the happiest time of the year for me, and I definitely don’t mean Christmas. 

The weeks before Thanksgiving are my absolute favorite because I start trying out recipes for the big day. 

Some recipes are standard and not up for debate: the stuffing is the same recipe I’ve been making since high school, the sweet potatoes have to be mashed with bourbon and brown sugar, the cranberry sauce has to be cooked down into a beautiful ruby lake with pops of orange zest.

But every year, I have a few recipes that I try out to see if they pass muster; this is how the pumpkin-black bean soup that we now start every Thanksgiving dinner with came to join the roster. This year, I plan to do a test drive of this Bon Appetit twist on mashed potatoes to see if it’s worth the extra effort, along with this squash with lemon and hazelnuts from Alison Roman. I’ve already made a ginger-triple berry pie with gingersnap crust and ginger crumble (no recipe to link to because it was a blend of like three different recipes and honestly not good enough anyway to make again for Thanksgiving), and I always make Julia Reed’s bourbon pecan pie, but I am still auditioning contenders for at least one additional pie or cobbler. 

Am I trying too hard to distract myself from the fact that this will be the first major family holiday since my mom died. Yes, for sure. Is it working? Also yes. 

I could be doing way more self-destructive things to cope than stress-baking a bunch of pies or roasting some squash. 

On Thanksgiving night, once the leftovers are stored away and the dishwasher is humming, I might sneak away and have a good cry in the bathtub for a little bit, let it all out, feel my feelings to their fullest. 

But then I’ll get up on Friday morning and start making gumbo.