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A Thanksgiving 2020 menu: Smaller but still sumptuous

The most table-focused holiday on the American calendar will never be more homey than it will be this year.

Clockwise (from top right): Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan-Parsley Crumbs; Sauce for Roast Turkey Breast with Orange-Maple Glaze (middle); Shaved Brussels Sprouts Slaw; Pan Stuffing with Sourdough Croutons, Sausage, and Apples.
Clockwise (from top right): Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan-Parsley Crumbs; Sauce for Roast Turkey Breast with Orange-Maple Glaze (middle); Shaved Brussels Sprouts Slaw; Pan Stuffing with Sourdough Croutons, Sausage, and Apples.Food styling/Sheryl Julian; Sally Pasley Vargas for The Boston Globe

Menu for 6

Roast Turkey Breast with Orange-Maple Glaze

or

Roast Turkey Thighs with Mushrooms and Cream

Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan-Parsley Crumbs

Pan Stuffing with Sourdough Croutons, Sausage, and Apples

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Slaw

Pear crostata

Save for a few Zoom calls in the afternoon, the Thanksgiving holiday will be so low-key we might as well be on the prairie. The most table-focused holiday on the American calendar will never be more homey than it will be this year. We’re taking it down to its essence — a smaller, but no less festive, celebration with fewer frazzled cooks and a menu that offers exactly what you need, but not much more.

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The first Thanksgiving of the pandemic will be so different that we can’t compare it to anything we already know. There will be people on their own, staying home, because they don’t want to risk giving the virus to older family members, an act of great love. There will be cooks who typically rise at dawn to put a huge turkey in the oven who have whittled the work down to serve a few. There will be families for whom a feast isn’t possible because jobs are lost and budgets are too tight.

And yet, there’s still reason to give thanks for things big and little (here we’ll stick to the kitchen): Maybe you taught yourself to make bread. You took a virtual cooking lesson and mastered gnocchi. You ordered takeout once a week to keep your favorite restaurant afloat. You convinced everyone in the family to make their own lunches and clean them up. You threw out all the stale spices in the cabinet and alphabetized the rest. You cleaned out the container drawer and now every bottom has a lid that fits. You organized the freezer. You sent a friend a cookbook she mentioned liking. You bought groceries for someone who couldn’t go out. You left dinner by a door when you heard there was illness, or just loneliness. You enjoyed cooking your scaled-down feast. You know there’s lots of good food on your table, for this holiday and for all the days. You know there will be more celebrations sometime in the future. And you know there’s warmth, affection, gratitude, and love all around. You just have to look for it.

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Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryl.julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.