My family is spending Thanksgiving 3,000 miles from home in a rental home..

Any suggestions for a menu without knowing what equipment, etc. will be available. We will be arriving 4 days before the big day and we will be near a large city. My family usually eats a mainly traditional menu.

Elaine Mauchline


violar November 8, 2021
Turket breast (bone-in) is a lot easier than a full turkey. Just baste in butter and whatever herbs you have around, roast in the oven.

Mashed potatoes, boil potatoes, add milk or cream, and butter as necesaary and mash.

Stuffing, basically croutons with stock, roasted until soft in the middle and crispy on top.

Vegetables - Asparagus, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and a few salads

Rolls and butter.
Elaine M. November 5, 2021
Thank you for all the wonderful suggestions!!! They have given me a lot of encouragement.
AntoniaJames November 5, 2021
One more thing . . . if you decide to do any significant amount of real cooking, don't forget your apron!
Let us know how it goes, okay?
Many thanks. ;o)
AntoniaJames November 4, 2021
I for one would love the challenge here. With 4 days lead time there, you can do a lot. The internet makes it easy to find and even arrange for pickup of groceries and other items you need. I've done a lot of cooking, baking and even (on the Umpqua River in Oregon, in a tiny cabin, no less) canning in rental units. I like how it calls on one's ability to be flexible and creative, and to put one's sense of humor to good use. But then, the first Thanksgiving dinner I ever organized and cooked - at age 20 - was for 22 undergrads/faculty on a Language Study Abroad program in Florence, Italy, working out of a tiny church "kitchen" (a small stove, 3 or 4 pots, a baking sheet or two, a few basic utensils, and the table at which we ate our dinner). After that, just about anything seems doable. ;o)
Nancy November 4, 2021
Lovely story!
AntoniaJames November 4, 2021
I'll never forget it, Nancy! Especially that three of the students were delightful young men from Italian-American families on Staten Island, who brought their must-have holiday tradition to the meal - baked ziti!! Their Italian host family "mothers" were of course thrilled to help them out, though it was not something any of them ever made, as we were in Tuscany, and the boys' Italian grandfathers hailed from Bari and Puglia. The baked ziti was my favorite part of that meal, though it did give me quite a bit of satisfaction (and confidence) to pull off the rest of it. This was eons before the internet, email, etc., when transatlantic phone calls were prohibitively expensive, so my mother heard all about it, after the fact, in a letter I wrote to her the next day. ;o)
Nancy November 4, 2021
I have two sorts of similar memories....which is partly why, I think, I reacted strongly to your Florence story.
Making birthday cakes for friends at college in very minimally equipped off-campus apartments.
And long distance calling home (in the US) to get my mother's classic recipes when I started to really cook and realized I didn't know how to make them:(despite eating them for years).
drbabs November 4, 2021
I love this!
702551 November 3, 2021
Sadly OP provides no information about her destination or her timetable.

There are places in the USA where farmers markets run all year long. (I live in one of those places.) At my farmers market there are several bakers and they happily peddle seasonal baked goods. The main question is whether or not OP's itinerary allows for a visit to the farmers market or whether or not she has any interest in supporting a tiny business.

In fact, I can pre-order a heritage turkey from one of my farmers market stands.

This is really up to the OP to consider various factors: price, time, effort and choose accordingly. She can hand over her credit card and basically reheat restaurant food (which might be quite respectable). Or she can research heavily and basically conduct a scavenger hunt for the choicest items and struggle over a poorly equipped kitchen.

Unfortunately the OP has provided no guidance on what her inclination is.

This is up to her.
AntoniaJames November 3, 2021
There are so many good suggestions in the answers already posted. A few more thoughts:

I've stayed in many rentals over the years. We usually cook most of our own meals when we travel to destinations where we've rented. In addition to taking your own knives and a small, light knife sharpener, consider taking the following:

A medium-sized cutting board (bamboo or something else that's lightweight)

About 6 feet each of parchment, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil, plus a half dozen or more zipper-top bags, including one or two gallon-sized ones

A corkscrew

Whatever herbs and spices you'll need for the meals you've planned (Yes, plan all meals you think you'll be preparing). I mix up spice and herb blends for each dish or purpose that will need them, and store them in small jars.

Consider what other ingredients it would be convenient to have that you should bring with you, especially ones where you'd prefer not to buy a much larger quantity than you'll use, such as brown sugar, baking soda / powder, etc. Bring just what you need. For example, I usually bring snack-sized bags of dried cranberries, raisins, dried cherries, nuts, etc. for filling out cheese boards (another reason to bring a bamboo, cutting board), garnishing salads, throwing into pots of oatmeal, etc.

If you have a small pepper mill, bring that, along with a small container of kosher salt.

You, or someone, will be cleaning up after whatever you're cooking. I always bring a new scrubbing pad, several oldish but just laundered disposable (they call them "Swedish" now) dishcloths and most important, my dishwashing gloves. These things don't take up much space but having these items will make all the difference in the world.

For Thanksgiving week, remember that there will be a lot of demand for bakery goods, especially artisan breads, pastries for breakfast, etc. Find the best bakery near your rental unit and see if you can order online in advance. Our local artisan bakery always sells out of things like baguettes early each day during the week before Thanksgiving. Order in advance to avoid disappointment.

For this trip, I'd also take cloth napkins and the nicest disposable (heavy paper) tablecloth I could find where you live. I'm organizing a "Friendsgiving" in a city two long days in the car away from us, and I'm taking two small candlesticks and some tapers. I'd take them if I were flying, too. These nice little touches don't take up much space, but will make the event quite lovely.

Let us know how things go! ;o)
MMH November 3, 2021
Rental houses are notorious for having terrible kitchen equipment & they often have electric stoves. When we rent 1, we always bring our own knives. Sometimes, we also bring our own pots & pans as well.
HalfPint November 3, 2021
I agree with all the other commenters: pre-order a Turkey Dinner (with all the sides) from any of the local restaurants and/or supermarkets. You can probably place the order now and then not have to worry about it until you get there. If there is a particular side dish that your family must have but is not included, make that one.

If you have your heart set on roasting your own turkey, pre-order an uncooked but prepped turkey, so that all you'll do is pop it into the oven.

Having stayed at a number of vacation rentals this year alone, my last advice is to pack (or buy) heavy duty aluminum foil. It comes in handy if you need to reheat food and don't have a microwave available in the rental. It also great for food storage. And vacation rentals almost never have it.
drbabs November 3, 2021
Bring a knife sharpener! Knives in vacation rental houses are generally cheap and dull. I usually pack an inexpensive one like this.

Can you message the landlord and find out what equipment is in the house beforehand?

If you’re near a large city, you’re likely to be able to find whatever you need to prepare a traditional meal, if that’s what you want. (But you could make this an opportunity to create some new traditions, as Nancy suggested.) I’m guessing you could Google the address and find the nearest grocery stores, and then research their product line. Many suburban grocery stores have prepared food that you can purchase and reheat. Or look for restaurants that make and deliver the whole meal if you don’t feel like cooking.

So nice that your family can get together after a long year and a half of distancing! Have a happy Thanksgiving!
Nancy November 3, 2021
You could either follow 702551 and MacGyver a traditional meal from a combination of local stores and equipment in the rental.
And/or make a wacky and wonderful one-time Thanksgiving from a combination of family-member desires (ice cream Sundae instead of pumpkin pie) and local available mains and sides (whole fish roasted in salt, grass-fed Buffalo roast whatever).
Or a combo of tradition and one-time fancies.
702551 November 3, 2021
You also have options to outsource certain components -- something that wasn't available 20-30 years ago.

You could research the destination city's markets and find one where you can preorder a roasted turkey. For sure there are tons of local bakeries who will be willing to sell you pumpkin pies (and yes, this includes chains like Whole Foods Market).

A lot of it will depend on how much effort you want to put into that day.

If your home has a well stocked kitchen, invariably the rental will not match what you are used to on a daily basis.

Anyhow, consider taking advantage of today's modern conveniences. Hell, there are restaurants/markets who will sell you the entire meal AND pair wine selections.
702551 November 3, 2021
The most traditional Thanksgiving dishes are pretty simple: a roasted turkey, simple gravy, mashed potatoes, etc.

Today's supermarkets have tremendous selection of nearly ready-to-eat ingredients, whether it be frozen peas, frozen cranberries, frozen pie crusts, pre-prepped vegetables, whatever.

There are a ton of disposable cooking vessels like disposable aluminum roasting pan, cans of whipped cream, etc. that people five decades ago didn't have.

It is easier today to manufacture an impromptu feast with minimal effort than any other time in history.

Go to the rental house, assess the available resources, write down what's missing, and head to someplace like Smart & Final. That's the type of store that can equip you to host a football tailgate that serves 50+ guests. I made those sort of assessments decades ago when I arrived at a ski cabin rental.

But today's consumer has far more retail choices.

Best of luck.
Recommended by Food52