The most profound Thanksgiving celebration I ever had began with eight of us guests politely chatting together while our host and hostess finished meal preparations. We were an odd collection of strangers, and behind the small talk we were trying to figure out why each of the others was there.
Our dilemma was soon solved. Farmers Lynn and Jon came to call us to the table with a little speech: We were all people who had helped them in some way that year, performing acts for which they were grateful--the dentist had fixed Jon's teeth after a soccer accident; a neighbor rescued them late one night when their car broke down; the lawyer helped them negotiate a controversy over an aerial pesticide spray program; the writer had encouraged Lynn to author magazine articles as a source of winter income. Then they led us into the kitchen for a home-cooked feast, the likes of which I had never seen.
My reservations about eating a feast that included no meat (it was my first gustatory encounter with vegetarians) soon dissolved as each of the artistic, hearty, homegrown dishes was passed along the table.
The most memorable dish was the stuffed squash, a plump, orange winter squash as large as any turkey, stuffed with spicy breadcrumbs, buttery onion chunks, nuts, cheese, and--if I remember correctly--golden raisins. I had three helpings. And I have never thought of squash in the same way since.
Now I see squash in its entire spectrum, the shapes and skin tones individually unique: acorn, butternut, green and blue hubbard, pattypan, banana, scalloped, spaghetti, and, of course, pumpkin. Sliced crosswise, these squashes have beautiful scallops and curves, serving as their own platters from which to scoop the creamy insides.