My calendar says Fall, although judging by the weather (temperatures still pushing the 80’s) it’s hard to believe. I want to wear scarves, boots and sweaters; not shorts and flip-flops.
Fall is my favorite time of year. The light is different, mellower because of the slant of the sun and the reflection it casts. It’s time for tailgates and football games, trick-or-treating kids in costume, hot cider, favorite jackets, comfort food and the sound of crunching leaves under foot.
Remember when you were a kid scuffing and kicking your feet through the fallen leaves on the way to school or a friend's house? I do. Sure, leaves need to be raked and that can be an endless job, but whenever I see a pile of leaves I have a sudden urge to jump into the middle of it. I want to be a kid again.
For me, fall is all about color.
When I first came to California, the fall season came across as too subtle. Summer seemed to go on endlessly and then one day it was winter. I missed the drama of New England where fall arrived in a blaze of color, the air turned crisp, and there was a certain smell in the air. When Mother Nature repainted the landscape with her bold palette of deep reds and oranges, yellows and golds – colors rich and warm. Fall was a predictable, unmistakable season. I missed it.
I’ve finally acclimated to the nuances of fall in California. I appreciate its different beauty and drama. It doesn’t last as long and it isn’t as pronounced, but it’s impossible to drive through the Napa Valley and not gasp at the sight of vineyards ablaze in color and scent. (Ah, the smell of the grape!) Who can see a swath of golden Aspens in Yosemite or at Tahoe and not be awed. Local trees signal fall’s colors–Chinese pistache in neon orange, fan-shaped yellow ginkgos and Japanese maples decked in red.
Let’s not forget about the color of apples. Have you walked the recently? There are dozens of apple varieties to choose from right now. Bins of apples summon images of pies and cobblers; the sweet smells leave me yearning for hot cider.
My grandparents had a gentleman’s farm in Vermont with a small apple orchard. I remember climbing the gnarly trees and filling wooden crates with McIntosh apples. Biting into a just-picked one–crisp and tart, with red and green skin and white flesh inside–juice running down my chin. They’re still my favorites, and they’re healthy–an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
And what would fall be without pumpkins. Orange pumpkins - and white, green, blue, even striped pumpkins–to decorate front porches and become Halloween Jack-o-lanterns. Last week a Napa grower won top prize for the largest pumpkin grown in California. His pumpkin weighed 1,704 pounds. Imagine growing something that big!
Want something bigger? Last year the folks in New Bremen, Ohio, baked a pumpkin pie weighing 3,699 pounds! All it took was 1,212 lbs of canned pumpkin, 2,796 eggs (233 dozen), 109 gallons of evaporated milk, 525 pounds of sugar, 7 pounds of salt and 14.5 pounds of cinnamon. That’s how many gazillion calories?
Pumpkin lattes and muffins are fall specials in local coffee shops. Pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie have reappeared on menus along with butternut squash soup and roasted root veggies. I have a recipe for roasted parsnips with sea salt that’s outrageous. It’s time for stews and casseroles and slow cookers. Yum!
For me, fall is that reflective time of year to harvest my energy and creativity before the crazy rush of the holiday season descends. Enjoy it with me.