Thanksgiving in the Midwest was so regularly accompanied by snowstorms that knocked down the powerline that we wound up giving thanks for the ingenuity of the cook.
Cuisinarts and kitchen computers may have pride of place the rest of the year, but on Thanksgiving morning it is the chef who comes to the fore, peeling chestnuts and stuffing the turkey in fine, old-fashioned style.
Here are some ways to say thank you -- at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any time -- for the things that never change, for a year of brunches and lunches, dinners and cocktails, for teas and long, cozy evenings spent with friends.
If you are deeply in debt for a year of unreciprocated hospitality, present your host with a bottle of good sherry, four sherry glasses (Martin's in Georgetown, 1304 Wisconsin Ave. NW has them at prices ranging from $12.50 each for Frank Schoonmaker's Solera, to $42.50 for Baccarat's Nancy pattern) and a tin of salted almonds or a jar of tapenade to munch on.
Or buy a selection of cheeses and offer them on a handsome cheese board striped with bird's-eye maple, walnut and padauk ($36 at Appalachian Spring, 1655 Wisconsin Ave. NW).
Full Circle (317 Cameron St., Alexandria) has a supply of sturdy old-fashioned glasses from Mexico in cobalt blue ($4.50 each) with a matching cobalt pitcher ($14). The glasses also come in aqua, amber and amethyst.
To get in a holiday mood, you might give a bottle of champagne, a tong to pull out the cork and a re-corker to keep the wine bubbly (tong and cork $15 and $7.99, respectively, at The Kitchen Bazaar, 4455 Connecticut Ave. NW and Seven Corners Shopping Center).
To accompany the champagne, order a Gold Seal smoked salmon from Specialty Seafoods (1719 13th St., Anacortes, Wash. 98221). The salmon, which costs $29.95, is packed in pouches and needs no refrigeration until opened, making it an extremely convenient gift.
Instead of celebrating, perhaps you'd rather soothe with tea. The Washington Cathedral's Herb Cottage (Massachusetts and Wisconsin Aves. NW) has a selection of tea trays (oriental flowers, unicorns, an iris on a lacquered background, etc.) at prices from $19.80 to $45, and their teapots range from a stout kitchen model at $8 to graceful china pots at prices up to $50. The Herb Cottage also has a large selection of China, India and herb teas to put inside the pot.
For cozy evenings around the fire, give the means to make it. L.L. Bean sells burlap sacks containing 11 lbs. of Georgia fatwood, small bits of kindling with a high concentration of flammable resin. Put two pieces under your logs and you needn't bother huffing and puffing with the bellows and poking with the poker ($14 from L.L. Bean, Inc., Freeport, Maine 04033).
Once you have the fire going, get out the chestnut roasting pan ($10 at Williams-Sonoma, Mazza Galleria at Wisconsin and Western), or the old-fashioned, wire mesh popcorn popper ($10.98), put on an album of Christmas carols and settle down with mugs of Irish coffee (footed mugs, $6.50 each at The Kitchen Bazaar).
You will note that up to this point, the cunning giver has been offering things that will be shared -- a glass of champagne, a glass of sherry, Irish whiskey sipped around the fire. In the true spirit of selfless giving, it is now time to consider the things you probably won't get to enjoy: gifts for the morning after.
The Cathedral Herb Cottage has glass egg cups in the shape of birds for $1.25, and egg cozies to keep them warm (75 cents to $4.35). They also have 3 oz. jars of marmalade, jellies and honey, which at 65 to 80 cents are cheap enough to buy lots of.
Package them with a selection of coffees (Swing's, 1013 E St. NW has eight different kinds ranging from $3.65 to $4.75 a lb.) and to start the morning with a giggle, add a silly oven mitt from Why Not?, 200 King St., Alexandria. Looking more like hand puppets than sensible pot holders, there is a snooty butler, a toothy crocodile, a maid and a lord, who, while not a milking and a leaping, are nevertheless appropriate to the season ($10).
Add, of course, to hold the eggs, coffee and jam, a bed tray. Little Caledonia (1419 Wisconsin Ave. NW) has them at $65 and $92.50, the latter with a removable tray for easy serving.
To give your host something to read in bed, stop in at The Cook Book Store, Georgetown Park, 3222 M St. NW, where in addition to the more usual books, you will find a large selection of regional cookbooks, like The Prima Diner ($9.95 from the Sarasota Opera Society, which is not the only opera group unable to resist a pun; another published What Aria Cooking?).
To strike a nostalgic note: What's Cooking in Congress ($12.95), which has Elizabeth and John Warner's roast chicken and Bella Abzug's Fabulous Cheesecake. From the Junior League of New Orleans to the Concord, Mass., Antiquarian Society, you can choose the cookbook that seems just right and that will inspire many parties in the coming year.
If you would like to be a traditionalist, if you have already started to hum, "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree . . ." you could create a most appropriate holiday gift for your favorite host by buying a metal fruit pyramid ($28 at La Cuisine, 323 Cameron St., Alexandria), filling it full of marzipan pears ($1.60-$3.65 at The German Deli, now moved to 1331 H St. NW) and, having created your pear tree, topping it with a brace of partridges ($7.90 each at the French Market, 1632 Wisconsin Ave. NW).