Published on November 19th, 2013 | by Josh Hafner

Thanksgiving 101: The joy of Friendsgiving

The beauty of celebrating Thanksgiving with friends, instead of family, should be obvious. You get all the warmth, food and camaraderie of the familiar fall feast without any of the familial tension.

“There’s none of that passive-aggressiveness you have with your own family,” said Angela Miale of Des Moines, who began doing Turkey Day with friends instead of family three years ago. “Everyone’s grateful and happy to be there.”

When Miale moved with her husband to Des Moines in 2008, she realized traveling back to her hometown of Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving would make her very much not thankful. After a couple of years of quiet celebrations with her husband and kids, Miale, 35, invited friends — some from near Omaha, others as far as Russia — to eat, drink and be thankful.

Last year, it was so warm that a table was set outside. About 10 guests ages 30 to 35 showed up with their young kids, Miale said. They ate traditional foods. They ate weird foods. They watched football and drank wine and did Saturday Night Live impressions. It was great, Miale said. It felt like a new sort of family.

“Seinfield — that’s like the new family,” said Miale, alluding to the closeness between Jerry and Kramer that your Uncle Terry could never touch. So how does Miale, now a Friendsgiving veteran, break her absence to her family back in Pennsylvania every fall?

“I always blame it on the kids,” she said. “But really I don’t want to go, not unless there are Steelers tickets involved.”

The foodiest friendsgiving in central Iowa may go to Carrie Boyd and company.

The Meredith food editor threw her first one a couple of years ago in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. She expects about 20 friends to attend this year’s gathering, a day of culinary feats, experimentation and one-upmanship.

“It gets kind of intense because it’s a handful of food editors and everyone else is really into food,” said Boyd, 26.

Last year, a friend’s husband who graduated from DMACC’s culinary school killed his own turkey the Saturday prior and prepared it for his friends. A yearly tradition at the event entails two friends breaking the bird’s wishbone, with the holder of the losing end drinking whatever is left in the gravy boat.

Boyd grew up with a pretty traditional Thanksgiving back in Burlington. Friendsgiving, she said, lets her and her friends get food ideas out of their system that would never fly back home. That includes everything from parsnips to a butterscotch pie with curry crust that she found in Bon Appetit. They’re the sort of recipes you wouldn’t bring home to mom.

“I legit think a guy made a bourbon cocktail and poured some bacon grease in it,” Boyd said. “It was just fat floating in a cocktail.”

See our other Thanksgiving features:


About the Author

covers young professionals for The Des Moines Register. Josh can be reached at or on Twitter via @joshhafner.

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