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Hannah Erroneous @TheMonaOgg
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1. Preparation, preparation, preparation! In households with heavily gendered divisions of labour, girls and women get gradually kitchen-trained over time, and only someone who is already kitchen-trained is allowed to do the Complicated Jobs.
This is because festival cooking is high-stakes: rightly or wrongly, there can be a big fear of being judged as a poor host by festival attendees if the food goes wrong, and this pressure tends to be directed squarely at women.
So only proven competent kitchen workers are allowed to do Serious Cooking Tasks. So if you want to help, really help, then the best thing you can do is to submit for some training early.
That means chatting to your family about wanting to help, and having that conversation more than a week before the holiday, at absolute minimum.
Maybe you'll get assigned to shopping or wrapping, or maybe you'll get to start learning the family recipes, but it's sure not gonna happen the night before the holiday.

But it's too late for that now, so what else can you do?
2. Take off the load by taking on The Intermediate/Easy Tasks. Maybe you don't know the special family recipe for roast turkey/latkes/bao, but you know how to Deal With Vegetables.
But does your family know that you know how to Deal With Vegetables? Tasks only get delegated to those who appear basically competent at them.
Before offering, you're gonna want to ask in a way that says:
"Yo I know the difference between dicing in little vs big cubes vs slicing into medallions vs shredding vs grating vs coarse chopping, and I will TAKE YOUR INSTRUCTIONS rather than quibbling with them, and do it on a surface outside the prime kitchen space."
To take on The Intermediate/Easy Tasks is to be a competent and willing deputy, with essentially no opinion. Opinions are for folks who have earned their place in the Land of the Complicated Jobs (aka the head chefs of the family kitchen).
Easy/Intermediate tasks include setting the table (find out the preferred style of place settings), vegetable prep, laying out items which only require putting into bowls, and ENTERTAINING THE EXISTING GUESTS TO BUY TIME if instructed to do so.
This may not feel like an actual job, but if it has been assigned to you it is because kitchen things are running behind and it is an actual job. Keep those guests distracted!
Childcare is a whole other thread. A short aside though: childminding doesn’t mean getting the kids messy or hyper.
3. Take the task you are assigned, not the task that you would rather be doing, and do it the way you were told to do it.
Everyone who has experience being a First Officer of holidays knows well the pain of believing that you could arrange the day better, and that the Captain is getting frazzled and making poor calls.
However, every First Officer also knows that pointing this out past a certain point of stress will only result in a completely unnecessary screaming match. This is a new lesson if you are a new recruit. Learn it and keep it close to your heart.
3a. If you need to ask clarifying questions, ask them. You may not know why a thing needs to be done a particular way, and the instruction might seem confusing to you at first. Clarifying is better than guessing.
Aim for, "Righto, boss, let me just make sure I've got that right!" in your tone. Strongly avoid, "Um, are you sure?"
4. Whoops, forgot I had a whole number for this. CHILDCARE IS A RELEVANT TASK. Keeping guests' children entertained keeps disaster at bay. When I posted this elsewhere a friend wrote a great subthread on the specifics, and I’ll seek her permission to share it later.
5. Help to clean up. If you know how to stack and scrape plates and wash dishes, you are capable of this. Those who do not cook must clean. It Is Known.
Ask if any items require special treatment, are not dishwasher safe (if you have access to a dishwasher), etc, and then have at it.
6. Run this list past your Captain and First Officer and ask for their take, and they will probably have some really specific anecdotes and also some suggestions about what you can do to take the load off them in a way that is desirable to them.
Also, for those who are reacting with horror to the very idea of this level of labour and stress - most of the stress actually disappears and transmutes into positive anticipation if the Captain and First Officer know for sure they have lots of helpers.
Some beautiful and rewarding things only get done with lots of work.

Maybe you’d love to just order pizza, and so would everyone else in your family. Beautiful! I applaud you! But maybe some people in your family adore some holiday traditions. Get curious about why.
Oh lord I should probably be self-promotional. If you noticed that kids in your family are absorbing traditional gender roles unchallenged, I illustrated this great book about transcending prescribed roles - and it has dragons, princesses and ninjas!
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