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"The Arabic ... Thanksgiving dinner is vast and steaming, crowded over the table top in hot platters bumping against each other. There are three open bottles of wine, all different colors ... a big round fatayer—lamb pie—that Aziz bought from the green-eyed girl at the Iranian Bakery; six sliced cylinders of cranberry sauce from Um-Nadia; whole roasted walnuts in chili sauce from Cristobal; plus Victor brought three homemade pumpkin pies and a half gallon of whipping cream."

Crescent, a novel by Diana Abu-Jaber

In Crescent, Sirine is the heroine of a story set in Los Angeles' close-knit Arabic-American community. She does indeed cook turkey, sweet potatoes and many of the standards. She also heads off rebellion from one Iranian-American, who protests stuffing the bird with rice, raisins and ground lamb instead of the traditional cornbread and fears there'll be no cranberry sauce. It is a reminder that there is more than one way to do a good thing with an old favorite.

If you're looking to do a new thing this Thanksgiving, you have a lot to choose from on Nov. 23. Some of the area's favorite restaurants—too numerous to list exhaustively—are offering prix fixe buffets and/or a la carte menus. Call your favorite eatery to see what's happening. A sampling of those open Thanksgiving Day includes Irregardless Café (833-8898, www.irregardless.com) and Margaux's (848-9846, www.margauxsrestaurant.com) both in Raleigh and requiring reservations. In Durham, The Triangle Vegetarian Society will host its annual feast (believed to be the country's largest vegetarian Thanksgiving) at Café PariZade (362-6706, www.trianglevegsociety.org).

Customarily, large hotels with full restaurants—from the five star to the no star—often offer a Thanksgiving day buffet: Il Palio Ristorante (918-2545) in the Siena Hotel and Carolina Crossroads Restaurant and Bar (918-2777) at the Carolina Inn, both in downtown Chapel Hill, are among them. A sit-down prix fixe lunch will be offered at the Old Granary Café and The Fearrington House Restaurant near Pittsboro (call 542-2121 to reserve at either of these spots). The rule of thumb is always, always call ahead to see if your restaurant or hotel of choice is open and celebrating Thanksgiving and if they are, by all means make reservations well in advance. Many venues also offer take-out versions of the feast. (This option continues with Whole Foods Market, Fresh Market, Foster's Market, Harris Teeter and other local grocers; be sure to get your order in the week before the holiday.) On that note, it's a joy to shop our farmers' markets for in-season, locally grown greens, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, homemade cranberry relishes and pies. The Carrboro Farmers' Market is even open the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 21, from 3 to 6 p.m.

However we celebrate, hopefully we'll gather 'round a table somewhere and lift a toast in gratitude—as Sirine's storytelling uncle does at the beginning of their Arab-American feast:

"Well look at us sitting around here like a bunch of Americans with our crazy turkey. All right now, I want to make a big toast. Here's to sweet, unusual families, pleasant dogs who behave, food of this nature, the seven types of smiles, the crescent moon, and a nice cup of tea with mint every day. Sahtain. Good Luck and God bless us everyone."

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