The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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November 17, 2012

For recipe handicappers, there's fakesgiving

WASHINGTON — For most people, once a year is enough for the cooking, togetherness and gut-busting feast of Thanksgiving.

Zach Patton and Clay Dunn have celebrated with friends and relatives twice a year since 2009. Patton, a senior editor at Governing magazine, and Dunn, online director at Share Our Strength, write the Bitten Word blog, for which they regularly test recipes from food magazines.

The Thanksgiving project started in 2008 after they first published a postmortem of the holiday dinner they had created from magazine recipes. The menu included a dry-brined turkey from Martha Stewart Living, Brussels sprouts hash with caramelized shallots from Bon Appetit and roasted potatoes with figs from The New York Times — not technically a magazine, but close enough.

They published their recap in early December. The hitch in that strategy: "Readers would have preferred to see those ahead of time," Patton said.

In 2009, the experimental meal shifted to late October and became a full-blown party for about 20, which the couple christened Fakesgiving. They borrowed the name from a friend who hosts a Thanksgiving eve meal.

Flash-forward to the menacingly cloudy Sunday before the arrival of megastorm (nee Hurricane) Sandy: Patton and Dunn found themselves scurrying down a fire escape here, past the dried special-effects blood from the previous night's pre-Halloween revelries, to retrieve a turkey from the grill in their back yard.

Even before tasting the bird (Cook's Illustrated), Patton, 33, and Dunn, 34, were pleased. Cooking the turkey outdoors freed up room in the oven to finish or reheat some of the other 18 items on the menu. "Yesterday was an eight-hour cooking day," Dunn said.

It was a kind of orderly chaos. A printout of an Excel spreadsheet organizing the food and prep schedule hung on the refrigerator door, a short distance from the stove, where Patton's mom, Brenda Lewis, stood over a pot of creamed greens (Martha Stewart Living).

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