For Everything There Is A Season

A local Thanksgiving with roasted duck. Photo by Molly Peterson, mJm Photography, Sperryville, VA

This is the introduction to the current Seasonal Table, a column – with recipes –  that I write for Flavor Magazine. The recipes are appropriate for any autumnal meal, and certainly, together, would make a local Thanksgiving feast in many parts of the US.

Harvest Festivals have all but vanished, at least in our society. Thanksgiving Day is sometimes derisively nicknamed “Turkey Day”. For too many people the event means wolfing down a huge plate of indifferent food prepared hurriedly and harriedly. And then go do something else, away from the table, and away from others.

Thanksgiving Day is not about turkeys. Not… really.

How many of us ever think about – much less realize – how much time, physical efforts, resources, planning and brains it takes to grow cereals, fruit, vegetables, and animals to harvest. Why should we indeed? We can buy just about any produce we want any time of the year at any supermarket – and cheap too! Asparagus in August, grapes in February, strawberries in December, apples in May, watermelons in March, pumpkins in June. Those are not in season in the mid-Atlantic area.

We pay a price for this.

I don’t mean the environmental costs – though they are real enough. You see, out-of-season year-round produce distance us from the natural rhythms and the agricultural landscapes that have shaped us over millennia. Their cheapness make us scorn the work it takes to grow them. Their insipidity can only engender soul-less meals, encouraging both over-eating and waste. They aren’t cause for celebrations.

So… I dare you to embrace voluntary seasonality.

Learn your local crop schedule. Learn to cook in season and to preserve what’s abundant.  Bring back the joy and sometime unpredictability of seasonal produce. Banish boringness from your table. Let spontaneity in.

Discover new bold tastes. You may even like it!

You may not give thanks for a full barn, a well-stocked granary, a root-cellar bursting with crocks of sauerkraut, or a smoke-house full of hams. But you certainly can give thanks for a well-grown plate of local food.  You can be grateful for sweet chestnuts in October and for crisp turnips in November.  And for the local soul-full food that truly sustains us and the hands that grew it.

Eating IS an agricultural act.

The Recipes (October November 2011)

  • Mushroom & Spinach Soup
  • Roasted Duck with Berry Jelly Gravy
  • Kale with Potatoes and Red Pepper
  • Roasted Winter Squash With Chile & Vanilla
  • Fall Salad with Roasted Apple
  • Rustic Maple Apple Tatin Tart
  • Honey Quince Ice-Cream

I will post some of the recipes in the next few weeks


5 thoughts on “For Everything There Is A Season”

  • Yes, they say that first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three days (not just an hour) and truly was a celebration of the year’s harvest. Now everyone is in such a hurry and tastes for diverse types of food so diminished…I agree with you, let us banish boringness from the table.

    My wife and I are so fortunate, we met an excentric older lady a couple years ago that has a Thanksgiving extravaganza in October, before the roads become bad, and she invites numerous interesting people and they all bring the most unusual and delicious foods. It is quite the event and the best part is that my wife and I can cook up dishes that revolve around what we grow and eat with a croud that enjoys food as much as we do…there wasn’t even a turkey involved this year.:)

  • Oh Mike, how fun! You know of course that in Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated in October. For the colder areas of the country, that makes a lot of sense.
    As to whether the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Jamestown, VA or Plymouth, MA, there is debate. Actually there is debate only from the North. The Virginia colony was established 40 years before the Pilgrims arrived after all.
    But no matter, harvest celebrations did indeed celebrate the local harvest – whether cultivated, foraged, hunted or fished. So those “traditional” dishes only reflect a fairly recent take on Thanksgiving (and a lot of marketing hype!)

  • Sylvie,

    Amen to your bold challenge to embrace seasonality in cooking! We who live that way forget sometimes that there are too many who don’t have that fire burning within. Thank you for all that you do to support local agriculture in your inspired cooking and writing. Wishing you and yours the happiest of Thanksgivings!

  • Touché, Sylvie. That’s a beautiful sentiment splendidly expressed. We’re doing our first Thanksgiving at Bide-A-Wee this year, with a turkey that was raised just down the road.

    I’m grateful for the inspiration I often receive from your offerings, and wish you wonderful seasonal feasts throughout the year~ Brett

  • Our Thanksgiving feast,other than the lamb (no turkey) came entirely from our garden. Roasted fingerlings and carrots with fresh mint; salad greens with pickled beets. Tonight, another fresh salad “picked” just steps from our kitchen. Even though we have had heavy frost in our corner of Northwest Washington state, the chard, kale, carrots continue to thrive in their raised beds. Here’s to celebrating the harvest every day!

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