Turkey ready to go into the oven (does anyone actually rely on this plastic thing?)

I have a friend, Cait, who is a Friendsgiving lover, and yearly invites 2 dozen millennials to her home for a Friendsgiving (pay attention for book giveaway at end of this post!). Is that a word? Not according to Miriam-Webster? But, NYTimes food editor, Sam Sifton, used it on the radio so I’m guessing it will be official soon.

How did it begin? This McSweeney’s piece seems to call it right.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, our only holiday centered on food, a holiday without religious trappings, and one that brings all people together. Over food.

Negronis mixed in a big measuring cup were the big batch cocktail, mixed ahead and poured over giant ice cubes when guests arrived.

Perhaps the greatest new facet of Thanksgiving is Friendsgiving, the bringing together of people who would normally be with their family in the midwest but are stuck in a city (as I was in 1985, eating a Turkey Dinner in the NYTimes cafeteria, copy boy late shift—Friendsgiving had yet to be invented; though there were Thanksgiving orphans). It was the loneliest Thanksgiving meal I’ve ever had.

I have become kind of obsessed with the notion of Friendsgiving and want to get an idea how big it actually is. Who celebrates a Friendsgiving?


A good dressing (sausage-mushroom here) is a savory bread pudding using the custard ratio

What is your favorite preparation if you’re hosting? What is your favorite dish to bring if you’re invited? What would you change? What is the best cocktail? How on earth do you get everything served warm in your little city dwelling with one stove? And maybe a slow cooker if you’re lucky. Is it strictly an urban phenomenon? Perhaps MOST IMPORTANT: Is Friendsgiving here to stay as a permanent phenomenon or is it exclusive and unique to the millennial generation?  

In my new life, my lovely wife, Ann, has boatloads of family and friends, and her kids and cousins bring people and their friends bring their moms and more friends, and it’s a great big festive gathering, which gives it a great Friendsgiving feel—a party the night before, air mattresses and couches all get used, last year one mom from Puerto Rico, another from Scotland, a magazine editor from Alabama arrived as her two kids flew in from different cities. A joyful free-for-all.

Now, the giveaway, to encourage people to take a moment to comment: I am so curious about what people prepare and serve at their Friendsgiving I’m giving away an early copy of my new book, out in may, PÂTÉ, CONFIT, RILLETTE, with Brian Polcyn, SIGNED by both of us, to one of the commenters if I get more than 50 comments.  Brian and I are super excited about this book.

So have a gander at my Thanksgiving 2018, and leave a Friendsgiving related comment, request, dish, whatever, and you’re automatically entered.

Thanks all!


Jean-Luc stirs the mashed potatoes. He was aces in the kitchen.

Yes, I put fish sauce in both gravy and mashed potatoes!

Jorge, of the theater company What Will the Neighbors Say?, with his mom, Enid, and their stuffed pumpkins.

Cousin Brian not only ate all that, he went back for more.

Sam, also of the What Will the Neighbor’s Say theater company, and Katherine. Food and love are an awesome pairing.

Of course, a Friendsgiving can easily have a night before party as well.

With a group lounge-about in bed the next morning before cooking begins.

Followed by bloodies, using whole canned tomatoes, strained–so much better than processed juice or Bloody Mary Mix.

And the cooking begins. Don’t forget to tell me what your fave Friendsgiving dish is!
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62 Wonderful responses to “Friendsgiving? (And a Giveaway)”

  • Bill Schultz

    Everything Bagel Stuffing.
    Unconventional, but acceptable for a casual and festive Friendsgiving.

  • Dani

    Not a millennial, but I’ve enjoyed both friendsgivings and friendsmas (or orphan’s christmas) events. We even threw a friendsgiving one spring when a group of us converged in Canada (from Canada, the US, and Australia) because one of our friends had never had a Thanksgiving meal and was curious about it. I think that it all comes from a desire for “chosen family” for many of us that have complicated relationships with our families or perhaps live far away and miss that community of support. Less about obligatory holiday celebrations and more about sharing food and shelter with people you care about.

  • Heather

    Friendsgiving is NOT confined to millennials – I was hosting them in the 90’s in graduate school (I’m a Gen Xer), and for all of my life my parents celebrated Friendsgiving in the suburbs with their friends (and their families) – so at least from the mid 70’s on.

    Granted, I’m not sure when we started using the word Friendsgiving (I’m sure we just called it Thanksgiving when I was a kid).

    It is also not limited to the US – when I lived in the UK, just about any British person who’d spent time in the States adopted the holiday and brought it back to the UK when they returned – I was invited to 3 Friendsgivings in 2days my first year there.

  • Ken

    We’ve been doing a Friendsgiving for around 15 years. It was never driven by a shared diaspora or anything like that, instead just an opportunity to get together with friends, drink and eat. In comparison to a replacement for thanksgiving, like it sounds some are, ours is usually the weekend following the holiday weekend. The meal always changes, as it is potluck. There’s always been turkey supplied by the hosts, but the sides and other dishes have changed over time due to both our general economic stability and … well, maturity. So, the guy who used to bring a crock pot full of lil smokies in bbq sauce, now makes us Swedish meatballs from scratch. Time spent finding ugly sweaters is now spent packing diaper bags and high chairs. Sadly, one dish still remains, the traditional 9pm Tater Cone. A snack of mashed potatoes, gravy and cheese whiz are piled into a soft serve ice cream cone. It is an abomination and a great reason to have kids/an excuse to leave at 8:30.

  • Stella

    Wow! I used fish sauce in my Tgivs gravy and everybody raved. (I use your fabulous gravy method.) It’s always very good, but this time even more so. I didn’t tell them until after dinner I’d added it.

  • Nicola Lagonigro

    Best friendsgiving ever is the potluck at the Broadway Dive bar in Manhattan. Great food!

  • Chuck Shaw

    I went to Hawaii for with friends for Friendsgiving. The bass was fabulous.

  • linda

    I like to bring some kind of fall/winter salad to counteract the heavy food. And pies are a must for dessert!

  • Cynthia Russell

    My favorite food is my sister’s dressing. She makes it just like my mom did.
    I always bring an assortment of fruits and cheeses. Also, I bring shrimp cocktail.
    I think Friendsgiving is a thing. My mom always invited people that had nowhere else to go. They were usually older people. When I could finally drive, it was great because I could leave all the prep work and go for a drive to pick people up. This was in the seventies and there were hardly any cars out. Quite peaceful !

  • KimL

    Friendsgiving is not really new – it has simply acquired a hip new name. When my husband was in the Navy in the late 1980s, it was typical for married couples to invite others in the military to Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations when they could not be home for the holidays. I always made a full Thanksgiving dinner because at the time, the ship my husband served on was male-only and the guys had no access to a kitchen.

  • Pat Carroll

    We do it every year, but for us it’s called Thanks Again. It began in the ’80s when my wife and I worked for the same newspaper and had a lot of friends who couldn’t get home to their relatives. We didn’t have small children, so we worked Thanksgiving day to let those who did celebrate the day. We had our feast on the Saturday after with 20 or 30 friends, several turkeys, casseroles, varieties of mashed potatoes and too many pies. We’ve continued into retirement so that our daughter — who often works the holiday as a nurse supervisor — can visit her in-laws and still haul her husband and kids and my ex-wife here for Thanks Again, and we also get friends in from PIttsburgh and San Francisco. My favorite dish is simple: grilled asparagus sprinkled with cayenne.

  • Rachel

    I wish I had a space suitable for hosting a Friendsgiving. I feel like it’s a great opportunity to try out fun new things that my blood-related family would find too weird.

    • Food

      Exactly my thinking Rachel, It’s just not great fun, in fact, get together bring it to another level of excitement.

  • Jon in Albany

    In the late 90s my cousin told me about something they had done which was similar to Friendsgiving but I’d say pre-dates it. They called it Welcomes-giving. You give thanks with your family and say You’re Welcome with friends. I don’t think it had a specific date. IOt was just sometime in November.

    Like you, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Being a little too into food and an engineer, the menu, shopping list and to-do list are in a spreadsheet that gets updated annually.

    I haven’t participated in a Friendsgiving so I can’t tell you what I’d bring to one. I imagine it would kind of be coordinated like a regular Thanksgiving with a host taking the lead. Deviled eggs are delicious but 5 people shouldn’t bring them. But the simple bread/butter/celery/onion/sage/thyme dressing is my favorite dish on the table.

  • Suzy Q

    I used to go to a Friendsgiving-type event before the term was even invented. Then, my friend referred to it as Fresh Leftovers, and it was held the Saturday after Thanksgiving for friends who were stuck with family on the holiday. Everyone brought something, and so the variety of foods was amazing. The hostess made a turkey and mashed potatoes but everything else was up for interpretation. I don’t live in that city anymore, and I think this gathering is more hit or miss now.

    I do know two other people who regularly do Friendsgiving every year, and it looks amazingly fun. I also don’t live in either of their cities and so have never attended (though I have been invited). I think it’s here to stay!

    • Suzy Q

      I forgot to say my favorite food! Gravy, gravy on everything, especially mashed potatoes.

  • Michael Ruhlman

    I love the idea of having a leftovers Friendsgiving on Saturday!

    And best suggestion so far? 9 pm Tater Cone!

    just the words bread-butter-celery-onion-sage-thyme dressing bring me back to my mom’s michigan home in my childhood.

    All of it makes me hungry and eager to entertain. LOVE these comments, thank you all. Keep them coming!

  • Michael Ruhlman

    PS even MY comment is “awaiting moderation.” Can’t figure out how to do it automatically. Rest assured, I’ll approve every chance I get till I figure it out.

  • Rich Etchberger

    We have been celebrating Friendsgiving since 1991. A bunch of grad school friends decided that there was too much drama with the family turkey day events so we decided to hike the Grand Canyon and celebrate there. Over the last almost 30 years, we have gradually all had kids of our own and the tradition seems to have been passed on to them. Nowadays, we tend to group up at some point in the year somewhere in the West, usually Westcliffe, CO or Moab, UT to make cocktails, enjoy vast amounts of great food, and catch up on what life has dealt us. These gatherings always feature at least one night of Derbys, a lucky find from the Friday Cocktail Hour. Friendsgiving is real!

    • Michael Ruhlman

      thanks for reminding me about the derby! will have to make one soon!

  • David Stachnik

    As the size of our immediate family diminishes the idea of gathering with friends at that time of the year has begun to have a new appeal. And I’m far from being a millennial.

  • Lisa Amtower

    Thanksgiving is my absolutely favorite day of the year! My menu doesn’t change much but I think about it for weeks ahead. Must have Brussels sprouts! I need to try your fish sauce trick. I can get 10 people around my table, and it is a day of laughter and love among friends. The night before is always Soup Night, just a light supper before the big day for friends who can’t make it the next day or anyone who wants to come over 2 days in a row! I am in such a happy zone when I wake up Thanksgiving morning. Half my guest list is already booked for this year, it is a more precious day every year.

  • Mike D

    I’ve participated in various Friendsgivings in urban areas, and as cabin camping trips w/ friends left at college during the holidays.

    We’ve also done events prior to the holiday itself to still be able to see and include folks that are going to be traveling day-of.

    The favorite dish that I always try to bring is a Pork Tourtière (Quebec area meat and potato pie) as that’s what I grew up with at every holiday.

  • Kyle D

    Falling smack dab in the middle of the millennial generation, myself, I can say that friendsgivings are quite common both in the Midwest and on the East Coast. Normally they’re held the weekend before thanksgiving, or thereabouts, because most people are with their actual family on the day-of.

    Once, I was assigned to bring an appetizer or side dish and showed up with a crockpot full of your creamy butternut squash soup, which drew rave reviews.

    Overall, it’s a good time to do new/different recipes if your family, like mine, is pretty stuck in its traditional ways on actual Thanksgiving.

  • Renuka

    I immigrated to the United States, with just one child. I always say “Thanksgiving”, because for me it has been about giving thanks for the friends I’ve made, and the welcome I’ve received from people of this beautiful country. Saying “Friendsgiving” just sounds weird; giving thanks has a special meaning.

    So I have multiple thanksgivings now, one for my (now) family, one for friends who can’t make it on the day, maybe another gathering for colleagues and students.

    Rice pilaf makes an awesome side dish 🙂

    • Tim

      Boy I sure agree with you… why does their even have to be a separate name of “Friendsgiving” … multiple Thanksgiving’s with different groups seems equally appropriate…

      We’re too focused on naming, labeling and otherwise boxing things in…

  • Kevin Barker

    So, my family started celebrating FriendsGiving in the late 70’s. My grandfather, by then quite elderly still had shopping privileges at the local Navy PX (store for military). He was a friendly old soul and as a result of his striking up conversations, we started having various navy types who were far from home over to our house on Thanksgiving. It remains a family tradition though my grandfather has long since passed on. I hope my children, now grown will continue it when I am no longer around.

  • Bo-ying Fu

    People around me are still too young to have a family of our own and going home for 4 days during one of the busiest travel periods of the year makes no sense, especially with the hiked plane ticket prices. We usually do a Friendsgiving mostly because we have the day off and there’s nothing else better to do.

    My friends and I always cook a duck instead of turkey because they’re more forgiving and also not too big. We’re not big fans of food waste but also not big fans of eating the same thing for a week.

    The typical spread:
    – Roasted duck with a bunch of herbs
    – Dressing from the Food Lab
    – Mashed potatoes with chives
    – Fresh cranberry relish
    – Roasted vegetables with a ton of duck fat. Not the healthiest but it’s friendsgiving! The amount of flavor and texture makes you forget about the amount of calories consumed.

    We usually skip the dessert. No room.

  • Kinnon

    I loved Friendsgiving in grad school. I made my moms Texas version of broccoli and rice, loaded with pickled jalapeños and plenty of velveeta. My foodie friend from Wisconsin loved it until he found out about that last ingredient. I spent the next few years trying to impress him with a velveeta-free version (I even made my own velveeta). They were all good, but probably not worth it. It did inspire me to try other workarounds to avoid processed cheese. Pretty fun experimenting!

  • Sheri Brakebush

    I like to bring stuffing. I use my mom’s recipe that includes homemade corn bread, sausage, and apples for extra moisture.

  • Linda

    I haven’t done a Friendsgiving yet, but I really like the idea. I would serve a lot of casseroles. It’s something that I’m pretty good at.

  • Melissa

    We don’t live near any family, so we’ve been doing a Friendsgiving for many years with our next-door neighbors (who host), their daughter and her family, and whoever else happens to be in town. One of the frequent guests is a non-cooking vegetarian with an egg allergy, who usually buys something extravagant for our dessert (which makes me a little sad because I love to bake and am really good at it). One of our other frequent guests is a vegetarian with a peppercorn allergy, so we all make sure we leave that out (but put a peppermill on the other end of the table for those who wish). There’s a turkey, but that’s the least exciting and interesting part of the meal. We usually talk about it as Sidesgiving, and nobody feels left out.

  • Steve

    We always use Friendsgiving as a chance to try out new recipes in a safer (ie: less judgmental) environment. Much easier to experiment with friends than with family!

  • Pam

    I’ve always hosted for our extended family and strays. Our kids (and now our grandkids) are fierce in their loyalties to certain dishes and demand that they be served year after year. I have, however, managed to sneak in new pies from time to time and finally managed to find a pumpkin pie that my oldest grandson would try. It has a chocolate crust and fresh ginger in the filling. He loved it so much that I now have to include it every year. No problem. It’s my job to spoil the grandkids.
    It’s so nice to see you back here. I missed you!

  • Paul

    I started doing Friendsgiving (can’t remember if we called it that) about 10 years ago when I moved to Colorado with all my family back on the East Coast. Too expensive and busy to fly back so we rounded up people in a similar boat and had a great gathering. I think we had almost 20 people one year!

    My favorite part of a pot-luck style meal like this is that I could focus on and tinker with one thing – I did the turkey and gravy a couple years running and tried all sorts of different methods to get the dark/light meat just right. I even settled on your turkey stock method for gravy, Michael! (not trying to get extra points…)

  • bert

    I’m with Pam.
    We host Thanksgiving every year. Friends of our Millennial children (and sometime their parents :)) always stop over in the evening for more food and jocularity.
    Problem is like Pam’s family is every kid has their favorite and when I even suggest a slight change a war commences. We’ll use the weekends before and Friendsgiving as the testing arena; a melting pot per se. I’ll look to switch things up; spice things up and introduce a new item or two. Almost every year one is a big winner! Rah! Problem with this approach however is many, many dishes on the big meal day!
    Fun post and comments Michael!
    Still read your Soul of a Chef book for fun!

  • John de Jong

    Our Thanksgiving are sometimes impromptu Friendsgivings, depending on who is stuck in town. My wife makes a super decent stuffing, which always ends up being my favourite part of the meal. It’s dosed with pine nuts, cilantro, and jeera meera masala (turmeric, cumin, pepper, clove, cinnamon, ginger). A delicious savoury accent.

  • Food Pyramid Guide

    My friends and I always cook a duck instead of turkey because they’re more forgiving and also not too big. We’re not big fans of food waste but also not big fans of eating the same thing for a week.

  • jberry

    We travel for my better’s work. Have had many a “not exactly” Friendsgivings… Wahoo NE, Lake Gunthersville AL, Pensacola FL…

  • Doug Hiza

    Our family often has Pierogi for Thanksgiving (and for any special holiday, for that matter). It is an old family dish and the making of it has been passed down through the generations mainly, but not solely, through the male cooks. We make a lot because there is almost nothing better that left-over pierogi fried up in butter and onions the next day.

  • El Aitch

    Friendsgiving is an unfortunate and clumsy word for something that has been going on for my whole life and I am old. Of course it is less unfortunate and clumsy than Friendsmas.
    But, I am curious… Why are we discussing this at the beginning of March?

    • Michael Ruhlman

      Because I’m curious now and will write about it next fall! BTW, congrats, google’s random number generator picked you as the winner! send me an email by clicking contact button at top of pages so I can get your address!

  • Jan Farrell

    This is the first I’ve ever heard of the word “Friendsgiving” and I love it. I always invited any loners I knew of to share in our family Thanksgiving, and I have my sister and her husband over the Friday after; they are both in wheelchairs and don’t like the insanity of all the family together. That insanity, BTW, is what I really enjoy. I’m going to start Friendsgiving.

    Can we have it any day of the year we want, or does it have to be around the end of November? I can picture a barbeque in the summer with all my friends and family gathered around. It’s Friendsgiving!

    To answer your question, what’s my favorite food to serve? Mine would be the homemade stuffing and the giblet gravy. My 13 year old granddaughter has mastered making a roux and loves to make gravy, so she is in charge of it. I rarely make stuffing so it’s a treat, and I always squirrel some away to eat later!

    • Michael Ruhlman

      Yes, you can have it any time of the year! a summer friendsgiving is a great idea!

  • Mike Riley

    Friendsgiving is definitely here to stay. I am just young enough to be considered a millennial, and am a geographic transplant, meaning that I have no family nearby (a Thanksgiving orphan is a fitting description!). My wife, daughter, and I celebrate with friends, many of whom also don’t have family within driving distance. We love Friendsgiving enough that we bought another turkey when they were super cheap in December and have it frozen for a late winter/early spring encore.
    While my favorite dish to make if we’re hosting is a home-cured ham (our last one was from a pig we raised ourselves), our go-to visiting dish is some type of fruit crisp or galette. We were also just commenting the other day that we need to make stuffing more often – it is one of our favorite things on the Thanksgiving plate, but why is it only relegated to the holiday season? We aim to fix that in our house!

  • Jamie Avera

    I remember several wonderful Thanksgivings when I brought college friends home for Thanksgiving, or spent Thanksgiving with wonderful friends who invited me to their homes. Like you, I consider Thanksgiving the most important, indispensable holiday.

    For me the most important Thanksgiving (Friendsgiving) dishes are also a sausage stuffing, along with corn pudding, and a gravy that starts several days before, The turkey is almost secondary!

  • john maxworthy

    A big batch cocktail is an easy way to serve a crowd. Last year I had a Thanksgiving sangria that had sparkling cider, red wine, pomegranate juice/seeds, rum, and warm fall spices (ginger, cinnamon, all spice, etc..) It was a big hit.

  • Jeff

    I love your roasted root vegetable medley dish that you’ve shared on your blog before. That’s the only perennial dish I make other than the turkey!

  • Andy

    I haven’t been to a Friendsgiving in a couple of years, but when we were attending (the hosts were in their 80’s and decided to have a quieter holiday), I made my mother’s noodle kugel. I loved sharing a family recipe of my own, and it is both side dish and dessert. Egg noodles, butter, apples, raisins. eggs, sugar, cinnamon…what could be better?

  • Lindsayc

    Canadian thanksgiving to me is friendsgiving. My parents moved far away from their respective families to start their life together in Vancouver. My Dad is from New Zeland and Mum was from Toronto- so our thanksgiving was always full of friends and neighbours and occasionally a wayward family member who braved the west coast wet fall to be with us. I host thanksgiving now, and have siblings, nieces, nephews and in-laws but there’s always room for friends and we welcome thanksgiving orphans every year. My favourite dish is always the dressing & gravy, but I make everything from scratch. New recent delights include a squash pecan savoury gratin and cranberry sauce made with fresh oj & 5 spice. 💕

  • Lindsayc

    Canadian thanksgiving to me is friendsgiving. My parents moved far away from their respective families to start their life together in Vancouver. My Dad is from New Zeland and Mum was from Toronto- so our thanksgiving was always full of friends and neighbours and occasionally a wayward family member who braved the west coast wet fall to be with us. I host thanksgiving now, and have siblings, nieces, nephews and in-laws but there’s always room for friends and we welcome thanksgiving orphans every year. My favourite dish is always the dressing & gravy, but I make everything from scratch. New recent delights include a squash pecan savoury gratin and cranberry sauce made with fresh oj & 5 spice.

  • lisa

    Not a millennial but we do Friendsgiving often. A lot of times we take leftovers (per the hostess’ request). We are urban/suburban but I think it is often because our friends are perhaps better cooks and more fun than my inlaws and while I need to keep the spouse happy and he needs to see his family – we also need to enjoy the feasting aspect of the whole thing! I love taking cranberry sauce and a raw relish. This year I also made a cranberry curd tart that was amazing. Generally it;s a time for me to play so the dishes vary.

  • Cory

    In the suburbs of Iowa, I’ve done Friendsgiving without the monicker off and on for years. I guess I’m more Gen X than millenial, but starting in college there were always people not going “home” (distance, work obligations, whatever). I like to cook anyway, so I randomly started doing it. Basically, everyone knew it was more of a drop-in affair than a sit down meal. Stay for an hour, stay all day, grab a plate on your way to work. Whatever. I’d start around 10:30 with snacks and be cooking up throughout the day with football on. “Real Meal” was usually between 3-5pm, but still snacks/desserts/leftovers kept around until whenever. Menu is/was whatever I felt like, however I wanted because it was a good excuse to play in the kitchen all day.

  • Michael

    Someone already mentioned it at least once, but I started doing it while in the Navy. It became cemented for me in my final tour of duty while stationed in Italy. Many of my Italian friends were curious about our holiday as it isn’t celebrated there. I usually did a full Thanksgiving dinner to show them what it was like but with my military friends from all over the country we had a mix of regional American thanksgiving dishes too. My favorite comment once was from a Florentine that loved my stuffing, saying “I don’t know what to call this because we don’t have anything like it – but I love it”.

  • Brian

    For us, Thanksgiving has always been a modified friendsgiving. The holiday is based around a core family group, but the intent is to “bring in the strays”. Incorporate others into the group, whether it be for one year or more.

  • Marc Barringer

    One group that has always practiced it: those of us food workers that work the holiday. It’s another holiday to us. We’ve busted our butts in the days before, and the friday or saturday (or the first week in December) may be our chance to do something before the Christmas onslaught.

  • Thrash Cardiom

    You need to post stuff regularly if you want feedback. Your absence has killed this blog.

    • Michael Ruhlman

      Sorry, but I exploded my life a few years ago and in the intervening time, the nature of blogs and what people are reading online has changed.

  • Michael Ruhlman

    Thank you all for commenting! Will select a winner for the advance copy of PATE, CONFIT, RILLETTE midday! Have had fun reading these comments. Thanks for taking the time.

  • Michael Ruhlman

    Want to thank all for your comments! what a blast reading them and thinking about gathering around food. I want to have one monthly!

    Thanks to google random number generator, “El Aitch” was chose for the giveaway. LMK by email where I can send it!

  • Jack

    Late to this but just wanted to say how much I enjoy your writing. I read Wooden Boats and really enjoyed it. I’m now halfway into The Soul of a Chef and am also enjoying it. I look forward to reading more of your books about food and cooking and anything else you turn your attention to. Thank you.