My ex-husbands, who often listened to this California-born summer girl whine about Northeastern winters, would be surprised to know that this week I was delighted by the chill in the air. I cheerfully shut the living room window for the first time in months, found space for the tender perennials that will overwinter indoors, and picked the green tomatoes. I smiled at the bright red leaves falling from a maple tree on my block and at the pumpkins lined up on a neighbor’s front steps. Yup, that’s right–I’ve gone native. I can’t imagine living without four distinct seasons anymore. What changed me? Food.
Maybe it was all the years of foraging and gardening here that finally caught up with me. Or maybe this year of extreme food activism, this 250-Mile Diet, finally pushed me over the edge. Perhaps it was the unusually warm weather we had until this week, which stretched summer temperatures long past the autumnal equinox. For the first time ever I got tired of basil and tomatoes, fabulous as they are. I got tired of shorts and flip flops. I wanted potato and leek soup, wild mushrooms, and roasted winter squash. I wanted an excuse to delve into my store of dried and home-canned foods, not inferior to their fresh counterparts but different, as raisins are to grapes.
Of course, in a few months I’m sure I’ll be completely over apples, potatoes and cabbage and looking forward to the first fresh greens of spring. Which is as it should be.
Flashback to not quite thirty years ago: I am sixteen years old and have just moved, on my own, to New York. My room mate and I are at the supermarket. What is in our cart? Iceberg lettuce, supermarket tomatoes, mealy red delicious apples and a few boxes of mac and cheese. What month is it? No way to tell from our shopping choices, but if summer had ended then I bet we were complaining about the cold.
Meanwhile, back here in the future, I’m enjoying firing up the oven without overheating my one bedroom apartment. Today I got back from work and got the sourdough starter I took out of the fridge in the morning kneaded it into a bread dough. There is a batch of apple hickory nut muffins in the oven (Best fast food ever is grabbing one of these out of the freezer in the morning. By the time I’ve showered, dressed, and walked the fifteen minutes to the LIRR train the muffin is thawed and ready for breakfast-on-the-run). One of my favorite soups is on the stove. I’m not saying I don’t still love summer. Just that the cold months are delicious, too.
Here’s a recipe that includes apples, winter squash, and root vegetables. It’s pretty much autumn in a bowl:
Squash & Apple Soup
Serves approx. 4
Preheat the oven to 400Â°F.
Cut acorn or small butternut or other winter squash in half and scrape out seeds (a grapefruit spoon is great for this). Place cut side down in a baking pan with about Â½-inch water. Bake until squash is very tender, 45min. -1hr.
Meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed pot, melt:
1 Tbsp. butter or duck fat
Add and sautÃ© over low heat about 10 minutes:
1 c. chopped leeks or onions
1 tsp. salt
2 c. peeled, cored, chopped apples
1 c. peeled, chopped sweet potato, celeriac, or carrots
2 c. water (no, stock wouldnâ€™t be better)
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 30-45 min. until everything is tender.
Scoop out flesh from baked squash and add to other ingredients. Puree with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender in two batches. Add salt if needed. Serve hot.