For Thanksgiving, my husband, Paul and I, try to plan. Paul wants to spend time with his sons, and go with them to Kansas University basketball games, and, if the weather holds, to play golf. I want to create taste treats in the kitchen, party a little, talk spontaneously if the spirit moves us, and take a walk in nature.

Sometimes, though, we have to improvise. Pre-occupied with other things until the last minute, we made a mistake. If you have a 22.2-pound turkey that you stuff, how long should it bake? Quick, to the Internet. It says, 330 minutes. No problem. Just 3 ½ hours–plenty of time to bake the pies before the bird goes into the oven.

So my daughter, Cora, sets to peeling apples and some other stuff to make her pies, while I scurry around feeling very important while I make a stuffing; I do make a good stuffing. Then, there’s a spicy South African sweet potato dish Cora wants to make, plus an asparagus/ ham/parmesan new dish she wants to try. There’s also a wonderful spinach/pomegranate/avocado/cucumber/tomato/scallion salad she’s made for the past three years, which is not going to be ignored this year. Paul will wing back into the kitchen at some point to make his mashed potatoes.

When we peak in the oven after three hours, the turkey looks a wee bit tired–like it wants to do a good job, but it just needs a little more direction. Is 330 minutes really 3 ½ hours? Oh, my God. We’ve screwed up Thanksgiving! The turkey won’t be ready till 9:30 at night! That’s usually when Paul and I are winding down from the day. How could we make this mistake? How many years have we made a turkey?

Improvisation worked. We ate at 9:45. We did not hurry the turkey. It was moist and tender. My favorite of Cora’s dishes was her apple pie, which had a baked apple/cinnamon/cardamon flavor. Paul’s mashed potatoes were creamy, yet light and fluffy. The stuffing and gravy were both savory–quite yummy–if I may so myself.