September is a time for the A, B, C's, which, in eating as in reading, begins with:

A is for Apple. Instead of playing it safe with Delicious, try other varieties this fall. The International Apple Institute, P.O. Box 1137, McLean, Va., 22101, will send you a leaflet on apple varieties for 50 cents, a full-color chart showing photographs of 12 apple varieties for 75 cents, or a poster, pretty enough to hang in your kitchen, with paintings and descriptions of 15 varieties. The New York Botanical Garden sells the same poster for $10. The Institute will send it to you for $4.50, postage included.

B is for baton and an evening of Beethoven with all of your guests being allowed to conduct. Dale Music Co., 8240 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md., sells batons ($2.50 and up), as does Washington Music Center, 11151 Viers Mill Road, Wheaton ($3 and up).

C is for candles, $5.60 a dozen for the 10-inch size at E.B. Adams Co. restaurant supply house, 1612-22 U St. NW. (332-8100), as against 75 cents each at some supermarkets. Buy 12 dozen and the price drops to 30 cents a candle.

D is for dish, the heirloom you broke but couldn't bear to throw away. If it's worth saving the pieces, it's worth putting them back together. Look in the Yellow Pages under "Chinaware & Glassware Repairing" for people who can mend it.

E is for extras, a plastic freezer bin to hold extra ice, wine corks saved in a drawer for the inevitable moment when a new one crumbles.

F is for flowers and things to put them in. Get out all your vases, set them on the table and decide what shapes are missing. Maybe you need a low glass bowl to float blossoms in, or a small vase to hold a single rose. E.B. Adams has individual cocktail carafes that are just right for the latter. $2 on their bargain table.

G is for gripper, long-handled tongs that storekeepers use to get a can off the top shelf. Which is what you want it for. $13 at Williams Sonoma, Mazza Galleria at Wisconsin and Western avenues.

H is for hat, tall white toques which are the badge of professional chefs and a pleasure for the amateur. Kitchen Bazaar, 4455 Connecticut Ave. NW., has them at $6 and $6.50.

I is for invitations issued with imagination. Instead of standard cocktail-party cards, visit area museums and choose post cards of paintings in the proper spirit. Hire a calligrapher to letter them. There are quite a few practitioners of the art listed in the Yellow Pages and one, Scribal Arts Studio (362-5932) says camera-ready copy (depending on how wordy you are) usually runs about $50.

J is for jars, which no one ever has enough of and which most supermarkets and hardware stores have out right now because it's the canning season.

K is for kettle and the yucky things that collect in the bottom. Kitchen Bazaar sells an anti-limer, a flat round brush that looks like an Ed Koren cartoon character and sits inside the kettle to keep deposits from forming. $2.49.

L is for lighting and the necessity of finally doing something about the bathroom mirror. Flatter faces as well as palates.

M is for meat, a whole side of it to be frozen or split with friends. Raised organically on feed containing no hormones or antibiotics, it is available in whole side, split side or hindquarters at prices ranging from $1.60 to $1.89 a pound from Progressive Farm, Harwood, Md. (301-867-1867). The farm is 10 miles south of Annapolis, about a half hour's drive from Washington, and orders must be placed in advance.

N is for nutcrackers. It's not too early to lay in a supply for the holiday season.

O is for oven cleaner. Isn't it time? Also for oven thermometer and an accurate reading few oven settings provide.

P is for bread peel, a lovely wooden paddle used to take baker's loaves from the oven. To be used or admired, they're $21.60 at E.B. Adams.

Q is for the continuing Quest and how this year you will finally find a source for Bath Olivers, or sterling silver charms to bake into a plum pudding, or wild turkey, or toasting forks.

R is for recipes, of course, and finally getting them organized. A large, accordion file is the simplest way, shoving them into alphabetical order. If you have more time and energy, slide them between the plastic pages of a photo album.

S is for silverware, and where to replace the knives and spoons devoured by the garbage disposal. Georgetown Silver Shoppe, 1261 Wisconsin Ave. NW (337-0011) carries discontinued patterns as well as those still being manufactured.

T is for taking home leftovers in style. Ginn's, 1208 18th St. NW., has Chinese-type takeout boxes printed in pretty, provencal prints for 35 cents and 65 cents.

U is for the unusual party you always meant to give. A se'ance, a costume ball, a pumpkin-carving contest. This fall, do it.

V is for vegetable peeler and why one that you've had for 10 years doesn't seem to work anymore. The blade dulls but the chef peels on, even though a replacement costs under $2.

W is for wood -- and this year's fad among the barbecue set, mesquite, a weed tree in the Southwest, a status symbol in the East. Kitchen Bazaar has both the wood ($10 for 20 lbs.) and the charcoal ($13.50 for 20 lbs., $6.50 for 8 1/2 lbs.) Sutton Place Gourmet, 3201 New Mexico Ave. NW. (363-5800) charges $4.99 for 1/3 cubic foot of it.

X is for Xerox machines, which you can use to copy tattered recipes before they totally disintegrate.

Y all this now? Because you spend half your life in the kitchen, that's Y.

Z is for Zinfandel, a glass of which is your reward for making it through this alphabet.