Thanksgiving dinner - as the Pilgrims might have prepared it

The White House, a restaurant and guesthouse that sits on a hill overlooking the village of Wilmington, Vt., 21 miles east of Bennington, is steeped in New England tradition.

It was built early in this century as a summer home for a lumber baron who lived in Boston.

Its interior reflects the taste of affluent people of the time: spacious rooms, wood-burning fireplaces, and a secret stairway leading from the main floor to pique the imagination. Guests often guess at the staircase's location as they study menus listing frogs legs Provencal and broiled lamb chops with homemade mint jelly.

On Thanksgiving Day, though, no menu is needed. A traditional Thanksgiving dinner - roast turkey and the fixings - is the only food available. As Joe Sullivan, the White House chef, puts it, ''If you don't want turkey on Thanksgiving, don't come here.''

Mr. Sullivan spends time over his Thanksgiving menu, striving to present ''an old-time New England feast.'' The meal starts with sweet apple cider, fresh fruit appetizer, and pumpkin soup.

Then come roast turkey with honey-wheat stuffing, butternut squash, string beans, turnips, and fresh cranberry sauce, as well as mashed and sweet potatoes.

The meal ends with apple, mince, or pumpkin pie. Portions are unlimited. Fresh Fruit Appetizer

Assemble fresh fruit - such as cantaloupe and honeydew melons, green and red seedless grapes, strawberries and blueberries, pineapple, tangerines, and Granny Smith apples - with the skin left on. Use all of these fruits, if available, or a selection.

Adjust the amount of fruit to the number of people to be served. Don't use bananas, because they will turn dark. Cut fruits into bite-size pieces and marinate a few hours in orange juice or in commercial fruit punch. No sugar should be needed. Refrigerate until serving time.

Mr. Sullivan devised the recipe for pumpkin soup, thinking of it as ''something the Pilgrims might have eaten.'' Pumpkin Soup 2 cups pumpkin puree, either fresh or canned 3 tablespoons butter 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 3 cups heavy cream

Combine all ingredients except cream and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in cream a little at a time and simmer several minutes more or until heated through. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

At the White House, homemade honey-wheat bread is used for stuffing, and the recipe calls for two loaves, which will serve 10 or 12 people. But the amount of bread can be adjusted to the size of the turkey. The secret of good stuffing, Sullivan explains, is to cook all ingredients together, as directed in the recipe, before stuffing the bird. Thanksgiving Stuffing 2 loaves honey-wheat or other bread 15 slices bacon, fried crisp, crushed 2 tablespoons bacon grease 3 stems celery, chopped very fine 1 small onion, minced 1 clove garlic, chopped 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning 1/2 teaspoon thyme 3 tablespoons butter

Prepare bread in small pieces and moisten with water. Add crushed bacon and mix. Put two tablespoons bacon grease in small pan; add celery, onion, and garlic and simmer 10 minutes until onion and celery are soft but not limp.

Add to stuffing with slotted spoon. Add poultry seasoning and thyme. Mix all together with your hands. Melt butter in large skillet and add stuffing. Cook 15 minutes. Adjust amount of moisture and stuff turkey.

The chef emphasizes that stuffing put in dry comes out dry. Moist stuffing comes out moist.

He cautions against leaving stuffing in a turkey after it is cooked. Serve stuffing in a side dish. If a change from pie is wanted for a holiday dessert, Sullivan suggests custard bread pudding. Custard Bread Pudding 1/2 loaf white bread 1 cup raisins 10 eggs 1 quart mild 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 cups sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.

Dice bread and put in 10-by-15-inch baking pan that is 3 inches deep. Soak raisins until soft and scatter over bread. In large bowl, whisk eggs.

Scald milk. Add milk slowly to egg mixture, along with vanilla, sugar, and salt. Add Cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly and pour over bread.

Let set 1/2 hour. Place in 450 degree F. oven in a pan of water approximately 45 minutes. Water should reach halfway up the pan. Check and add more if necessary. Do not cover; bake until golden brown. Serves 8 or 9.

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