Be thankful for all the apps that will make Thanksgiving less horrible
Thanksgiving is hell. Well, to be fair, the holiday has some enjoyable aspects, but parts of it are rather hellish.
Nobody enjoys the prospect of navigating through the herds of tired angry humanity, preparing a multicourse feast, or playing ref between family members as they share their varied, colorful views on politics, religion, and how the grandkids have decided to live their lives.
While previous generations simply had to keep calm and carry on through it all, the mobile age comes with all sorts of cool ways to alleviate the worst Thanksgiving has to throw your way.
Travel can be less terrible
The day before Thanksgiving and the holiday itself are the two busiest travel days of the year. But your phone can mitigate the worst of this annual pilgrimage (pun intended).
For anyone hitting the road this year, the crowdsourced real-time traffic app Waze (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone) can help you avoid getting traffic-jammed with all the poor Waze-less souls out there.
Even if you avoid the worst holiday traffic, the road has one other annoyance waiting for you: boredom. Once upon a time, breaking from the monotony of the highway meant subjecting yourself to the local radio’s numbing buffet of mediocre music, morning-zoo fart jokes, and AM-radio survivalists. But no more!
Now your phone can help you control your road trip’s soundtrack through a curated mix of music via Pandora (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Kindle Fire) or Spotify (iOS, Android, Windows Phone; monthly subscription for mobile service). But you might also consider downloading or streaming some podcasts via iTunes or our choice for best mobile podcatcher, Pocket Casts (iOS and Android).
Not only does GateGuru update you on your flight’s status including the departure and arrival gates, but it also provides a wealth of information about your terminal, such as restaurants, ATMs, and even charging stations.
Once you’re aboard, your phone offers numerous ways to help you forget that you are one mechanical malfunction away from careening into the ground.
Aside from the aforementioned audio entertainment options, a bevy of video entertainment awaits you, not to mention mobile games and the entirety of the Internet (assuming that you have Wi-Fi access).
In addition, all air travelers can be a little more thankful that the FAA recently declared it kosher to use your electronic devices from gate to gate.
And although the policy won’t be in effect for this holiday season, the FCC is at least considering lifting the ban on accessing cellular networks to make calls while in flight.
Preparing a meal can be less painful
They say that Thanksgiving is about spending time with family and “giving thanks.” Rubbish. It’s about stuffing your face with wild abandon.
And that’s easy enough when someone else is doing the cooking. But what if you are the one tasked with kitchen responsibilities—and what if you have only a tenuous relationship with the culinary arts? Fortunately, the magic phone in your pocket can also be your sous chef.
The first order of business: what to cook. A number of recipe apps can help with just that.
BigOven (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) is one of the most popular social recipe apps, and it comes with a synced Web interface. (Side note: We love synced Web interfaces.) The app has a 250,000-strong searchable recipe database. Recipes are either written by members or culled from outside sources around the Web—the BigOven site has the ability to scrape recipe details such as directions, ingredients, and even images from any recipe URL.
BigOven even boasts a wide variety of Thanksgiving-specific recipes, everything from the traditional Thanksgiving turkey to Thanksgiving stuffing to Thanksgiving butterscotch pie.
Beyond recipes, one of BigOven’s potentially most useful aspects is the app’s ability to automatically recalculate recipe directions and shopping lists based on your desired serving size. Want to know how to make maple-pumpkin pie bars with 31 servings instead of the standard 24? BigOven has you covered.
BigOven is available as a free, ad-supported version that has all the basics mentioned above. A premium membership ($2.50 per month or $20 per year) banishes the ads and gives you access to other information such as nutritional data. (But one should not care about nutrition on Thanksgiving—save that nonsense for your New Year’s resolutions.)
Similar recipe-search functionality can be found in Allthecooks (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and even Google Glass). In addition to providing instruction and shopping lists, Allthecooks helps you attend to all of the members of your Thanksgiving party by filtering for dietary restrictions such as gluten-free and vegan.
Even though it lacks some of the functionality of its competition, Epicurious’s mobile app (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Kindle Fire) is a good standby that can even sort recipes tailored to your comfort level, with options such as “I can cook like a pro” or “I can barely cook.”
Evernote Food (iOS and Android) offers a somewhat less robust recipe-search function than the others, but it can also recommend alternatives from local restaurants if things in the kitchen go entirely downhill.
If you are concerned only about the turkey, Butterball offers a free Cookbook Plus App (iOS only) that comes with a number of Thanksgiving-themed recipes along with ingredient-substitution lists, timers, and instructional videos.
Now that you know what to cook, the next question is how.
One of the best helpers is good ol’ YouTube (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and on the Web of course), a go-to source for kitchen tips and recipes. The site offers free video instruction on everything (ev-er-y-thing), from how to slice potatoes to how to braise turkey drumsticks like an Englishman.
A recent search for “Thanksgiving recipes” on the site returned 416,000 results. There’s a lot on the site, so be sure to utilize your YouTube street smarts to determine a video’s quality through how many views it has and the polish of the production work.
An app such as Time to Roast (iOS only) is an amateur cook’s dream protein-preparation assistant. It will let you know how long to cook any piece of meat based on the type (beef, lamb, turkey), the size, how well-done you want it, and what type of oven you have (gas, electric).
You can reduce the chaos of preparing a multicourse meal through the $2 KitchenPad Timer app (iOS), which provides an intuitive interface that allows users to set multiple, concurrent timers. Android users might try the minimalist Kitchen Timer app, but only the $1.50 Pro version lets you set multiple timers.
Family dysfunction can be more functional
One of the pitfalls of Thanksgiving is interacting with all the relatives whom—despite the advances in communication technology—you have proactively decided not to interact with over the past year.
Thankfully, you can find a number of apps that will help everyone get along—at least for one dinner.
For example, the aforementioned Pandora radio offers a Thanksgiving Day Radio Station filled with light fare that spans from light jazz to world music.
You may notice that most of these songs have a tenuous-at-best relationship with the concept of “giving thanks.” (Michael Bublé’s version of “Georgia On My Mind”?) Really, this playlist is less thematic than it is environmental—it’s nice, calming background music that will keep tempers even and opinions in check. Pandora knows what’s up.
Whatever house you visit, chances are good that you will end up around lots of kids. It often goes unsaid, but kids are bizarre, spazzy creatures. Technology can offer adults a respite from the unquenchable energy of youth. There are a number of ways your phone can keep little brains occupied with diversions that are both engaging and entertaining.
And while the kids are enthralled, the adults can enjoy a nice, refreshing liquid diversion. One handy assistant in this regard is Cocktail Flow (iOS, Android, Android tablet, and Windows Phone). The app has ingredients and preparation steps for all the cocktails you already know, but also offers the ability to suggest cocktails based on what spirits and mixers you happen to have on hand.
Indeed, it’s important to take a moment to wind down and temporarily forget that you’ll soon have to account for all those calories you just shoveled into your pie hole.
Thankfully, there’s an app for that too.