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Saveur’s A Bountiful Shore

Take inspiration from this beautifully photographed Virginia Shore dinner

Saveur photos by Beth Rooney

The best appetizer is a good story. With that philosophy of life, I’m drooling over Bernard L. Herman’s first-person story of his ­Chesapeake Thanksgiving feast in this month’s Saveur.
    A titled professor of American studies and folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Herman tells his story with the loving detail we tend to reserve for faraway times.
    Just before dawn on Thanksgiving morning, he begins, I pull on my waders, grab a basket and splash my way to the oyster cages that lie a hundred or so yards from our house on the banks of Westerhouse Creek.
    Oysters play a central part in his family feast, as they have for long before any of our families, white or black skinned, came here. Old times enrich his story, giving these times grounding and tradition. Herman’s feast will feature his own Westerhouse Pinks, plus Shooting Point and Nassawadox Salt oysters from a nearby oyster company.  Oysters will appear in stuffing, along with local marketer James Elliott’s sage pork sausage; on the half-shell on ice-filled wooden trays; and roasted. Paired with them is “a chardonnay made just up the road.”
    Central though oysters are to the story, they share the stage in the Thanksgiving feast:
    It is a sumptuous spread, he writes: the freshly carved turkey; a platter of thin-sliced aged country ham; the baked Hayman sweet potatoes, incomparably luscious; the Brussels sprouts and rosemary potatoes; plus the pumpkin cheesecake, an apple pie, a boozy rum Bundt cake, and Becky’s sugar-glazed pears.
    Each element is local, its terroir part of the story, and he has narrated the hunting and gathering of each lovingly. Those incomparably luscious sweet potatoes, for example, are gathered on the first stop of a county-long journey made Thanksgiving Tuesday and beginning with Pickett’s Harbor Farm for a variety of heirloom sweet potato virtually unique to this area and prized for its dense white flesh and intense sweetness.
    It makes you hungry — for your dinner as much as for his.
    Read for yourself, see the pictures and find the recipes at Number 151.