Saturday, Nov 18, 2017
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Mary Bilyeu

So many holidays, so little time

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It’s after Labor Day, so that can only mean one thing in a food writer’s world: ’Tis the season ... the holiday season.

To you, Thanksgiving is 11 weeks away. (Sorry if I scared you with that little tidbit.)

To me, though, it feels imminent. And it comes about two weeks early to my house so that we can have the recipes and the photos ready for you ahead of the holiday.

Thanksgiving isn’t just close – it’s looming.

I’m already working on it, don’t you worry. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, now, actually.

Of course, the requisite turkey will be trotted out, no matter how tired every single food writer, editor, photographer, and stylist may be of repeating the same old story each year. There has to be a new angle, right? Some new seasoning. A different kind of stuffing or dressing. Something that can transform that boring bird, only to have people do their best Tevye impersonation and sing “Tradition” while serving the family’s favorite feast, because that’s what’s expected.

Before Thanksgiving comes, though, first there’s Halloween. It falls inconveniently on a Tuesday this year, which is food page day in the Peach section.

The dilemma: Celebrate the holiday on the very day, because it would seem strange to utterly ignore it? Or offer the recipes a week early, so everyone has time to prepare them? (This can seem a bit premature, especially for minor holidays rather than the major ones that require weeks of planning and logistical maneuvering.) But if you cover it early, do you then do a second story about it on the proper day, so as not to seem as though you’ve blown right by it? That’s a lot of coverage; the holiday’s public relations staff would be giddy.

Oh, decisions, decisions.

Instead of Halloween, Dia de los Muertos could be fun, or All Saints’ Day featuring foods and dishes associated with some special religious figures.

Two days celebrating individual saints – St. Lucia Day, with saffron buns, or the feast of St. Nicholas with its sweet treats – might also be deliciously diverting as we move on to still more upcoming holidays.

Hanukkah begins at sunset Dec. 12 this year, which just happens to be the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe (since we were talking about saints just a moment ago).

And once we dive into December, then naturally we’re thinking about cookies. And about Christmas ham or goose or prime rib or lamb. (And don’t forget the vegetarian and vegan options, to make sure that all your dinner guests have something fabulous and festive to enjoy besides salad.) There is also the prospect of food gifts that can be shared with loved ones: soup or baking mixes to layer in pretty jars, candies, fruitcakes ... the options are as numerous as Santa’s list of kids who’ve been naughty and nice.

Next thing you know, it will be time to start ringing in the new year with hors d’oeuvres or with good luck dishes, such as the famous black-eyed peas of Hoppin’ John, or a personal favorite, Italian sausages with lentils.

Solstice. Boxing Day. Kwanzaa. And a new one I’ve just learned about: Chalica, which begins each year on the first Monday in December and celebrates the seven tenets of Unitarian Universalism.

The end of summer doesn’t just bring fall to the food writer’s world, although it certainly does offer lovely things like cider and caramel apples.

Nope. After Labor Day, the holiday season begins in earnest. Fa la la la la la la la la.

Contact Mary Bilyeu at mbilyeu@theblade.com, and follow her at facebook.com/thebladefoodpage, bladefoodpage on Instagram, or @BladeFoodPage on Twitter.

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