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Start Planning Now

It will be Thanksgiving sooner than you think 

      It’s not that I want to rush the season. We all know there’s plenty of that going on. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are on simultaneous sale in some stores. 
       Nonetheless, the season is rushing our way. Halloween’s three days of the dead mark the year’s turn from summery to wintery autumn. Never mind temperatures in the 70s and 60s those days.
      (About this time every year, I feel the need for more precise names for the year’s seasons. If such words exist, I haven’t heard them. Nobody I know has ever heard the Old Irish word, fogamar, meaning under-winter, but it comes close to right for this season.)
      Call them what we may, the next two months bring us more holidaying that we get in January, February, March and April combined. How excited can you get about Groundhog Day? Even St. Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s days have limited appeal. There’s a reason those months host the six weeks of Lenten deprivation. Even Mardi Gras hasn’t taken root in our part of the world.
      November and December, however, whirl us into a tizzy.
      My family ofrenda (the altar of the dead I wrote about in my letter to you last week) went up October 26, husband Bill’s mother’s birthday. I’ll take it down November 6, my father’s death day. By then, Halloween will have vanished from memory and commerce, except on sale shelves. Chanukah and Christmas will be crowding the autumnal decorations we associate with Thanksgiving. So now’s the time, the more so as our all-American holiday falls on its earliest possible date this year, November 22.
        For this week’s paper, we’ve donned our orange-spectrum clothing and perfumed ourselves with pumpkin spice — cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg — to get in the right mood to start our Thanksgiving planning.
      For Thanksgiving, so much a holiday of food, we bring you a paper heavy with recipes. For that seasonal feast, our recipes are heritage-inspired, from the turkey to its dressing (or stuffing, depending on where you put it) to seasonally appropriate beet salad tossed in for flair. (Beets, like most of us Americans, are immigrants. They came from Italy. Who would have thought it?)
       What’s a Chesapeake Country Thanksgiving without oysters?
       Lacking, in my family’s estimation. 
       Oysters make another recipe feature in this week’s paper, as we report the first- and grand-prize-winning recipes at the National Oyster Cook-Off of the U.S. Oyster Festival in St. Mary’s County.
      Of the competition’s three categories, I serve the hors d’oeuvres recipe all holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving. Soups and main dishes I cook for winter-long satisfaction. As a judge at the Oyster Cook-Off, I’ve already tasted them, so I know they’re worth repeating. I hope you’ll try them. If you do, let me know what you think: [email protected]
       In other useful Thanksgiving reports, you’ll find who’s cooking Thanksgiving dinner, from two perspectives: all-welcome free community dinners; and restaurants whose chefs will cook for you. To manage all those calories, we also bring you a calendar of this year’s turkey trots, strolls and ambles.
     Start planning now; it will be Thanksgiving sooner than you think.