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Alexa Can Help Create The Perfect Thanksgiving Holiday Meal

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Friendsgiving, everything simple and pure about Thanksgiving (communion, comestibles) and happy to co-exist with the original. Check it out: 

  • A holiday season gathering of people newly beloved, but not blood
  • Celebrated as a potluck, often of finger foods — not a seated dinner — on a night, even a weeknight, before or just after the holiday. 
  • Skews young and urban, even urbane, and is enjoyed in part because, unlike family, your friends are the people you choose

And unlike the traditional compound word Thanksgiving, this modern portmanteau was popularized by social media and hashtags.

‘Friendsgiving’ was scantily used as a search term until a few years ago, according to Google Trends. Then it began really catching on, spiking each November, tracking, inscrutably, a path cut by another Google query — Amazon Echo.

Alexa, help cook a turkey

Perhaps there’s a deeper connection between Friendsgiving and “Alexa,” the named AI that lives inside Amazon’s Echo voice-directed devices. It’s hard to say, but it’s not hard to imagine how using Alexa for Thanksgiving meal planning, even the errands preceding it, can take a load off. So introduce your new Echo speaker, Dot, Show or other device hooked up to your high-speed Kinetic Internet connection, and be smart about Friendsgiving planning with Alexa and these helpful hints. 

Making a list, checking it twice

Begin with a to-do list. Say, “Alexa, create a to-do list.”

From there, you can build your list by beginning each additional line item with “Add.” You can even make reminders by saying, “Alexa, remind me to ….”

Let’s practice. “Alexa, remind me to check my internet speeds.” 

You can do this at Speedtest.Windstream.net. If you’re getting Kinetic Internet 100 megabits per second (Mbps) or more, congratulate yourself — your guests are gonna love you for it!

Alexa recipe help

Now, a fun step! What food and drink to have at your Friendsgiving? 

This may require adding a “skill” to your Echo device much like loading an app onto your phone. 

Perhaps the most popular recipe site, Allrecipes (Allrecipes.com) is one of the most developed Alexa skills. 

  • Ask for recipes for a single item, “Alexa help cook a turkey.”
  • Ask for recipes for a particular item combination, “Alexa, what should I make with potatoes, mushrooms and celery?” 
  • Or ask for recipes for a particular occasion, “Alexa, what’s a good appetizer for a house party?” 

And Allrecipes.com isn’t the only option for Alexa recipe help. Check out the Food Network, Betty Crocker, Epicurious and The Kitchn.

And Alexa recipe help goes deeper still, with a dedicated bartender app. The Bartender, conveniently named, can provide you with drink recipes. 

There’s also an Ingredients Sub skill. Shout out a recipe ingredient and Alexa calls back quick, common alternatives for those times you don’t happen to have garam masala or sarsi sprigs. 

Go Shopping

Speaking of ingredients, let’s go shopping! 

Simply say “Alexa, start a Thanksgiving shopping list” — then begin naming items. When you’re finished, you can ask her to recite the list, or look for your shopping list inside your Echo app. 

Delivery of Whole Foods groceries with an Amazon Prime membership at the moment is invitation only. But here’s some decidedly non-perishable items to include in your Thanksgiving shopping list — decorations. (You must be an Amazon Prime member, $119/yr. 

Similarly, to purchase by voice, you must set up 1-Click purchasing.  Then, simply ask Alexa to add items to your shopping cart / order items in your shopping cart. It’s so easy a kid can do it. A parrot’s done it

Hmm, maybe you should set up a purchase code required to make a purchase. That’s easy enough: go to the app and click Menu > Settings > Voice Purchasing. If this four-digit pin is not voiced during a transaction, items remain unpurchased in your cart. 

The best thing about shopping this way is that Amazon tracks your order shipment, and you can ask Alexa for a status update. 

Alexa for Thanksgiving meal planning

Among the ways Alexa helps to host Thanksgiving is the turkey. Should it surprise you to learn that Alexa has a Turkey Planner skill that tells you how much turkey to buy for a particular number of guests? That’s rhetorical. It should not. 

It will also tell you how long to cook the bird.

For turkey and all your cooked recipes, you can set a timer within Echo. You can set many timers. Just name them: “Alexa, can you set an apple pie timer for 45 minutes,” and “Set a boiling water timer for 15 minutes.” 

Party time

Finally, it’s time. Let Friendsgiving commence!

If you’ve invested in Phillips Hue smart lighting (and a few others, such as LifX and TP-Link), you can simply speak the exact lighting you want, including mood lighting and color. For music, ask, "Alexa, play some music."

To all of your connected devices welcome your guests’ connections! Even streaming on their own devices while you’re flipping over to the football game on your streaming app won’t strain your high-speed Kinetic Internet connection. 

Some Echo music commands you might not know about include these:

  • Play music on a particular speaker — “Play Prince in the kitchen” — or on all your connected speakers, “Play Prince everywhere.”
  • Play a song you don’t know by name. “Play that song that goes ‘Excuse me while I kiss the sky.’” (Alexa won’t know “Ba-dum-dum-DUM,” but you can try over and over until your family begs you to stop.)
  • You can even like or dislike a song — "Alexa, I like this song," or "Alexa, thumbs down."
  • And, of course, an Echo syncs perfectly with audiobooks site Audible (an Amazon-owned service). You can ask Alexa to “play [title],” “resume my book,” or play your book beginning with a particular chapter. You can even ask an Echo in the kitchen to play a bedtime story from a separate smart speaker in your child’s room.

When the last guest has left and the kitchen is situation: stable, your thoughts may turn to Christmas, and that first big step toward turning your fall colors evergreen. Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir or Black Hills Spruce, now you can order a real seven-foot Christmas tree from Amazon. Just say….

Can you guess?

The ease of these smart systems is changing our homes, but they don’t work without the fastest, most reliable internet available — Kinetic Internet.