Over the past two weeks I've gone from having to put a box fan in the window at night so my wife and I could sleep to cold rain and chilly breezes. Autumn is falling hard this year after an extended summer. Autumn has always been my favorite of the seasons, and that witchy and magical moment on days like today when summer gives way to autumn's approach my favorite time of all. In recent years, however, I have begun to feel less sanguine about it because I am finding it harder and harder to deal with winter. When the cold rain falls on a day like today I think about the many months of cold and darkness that soon lie ahead, and that thought fills me with despair. However, I still love the fall over winter's cold, summer's relentless heat and attendant ball sweat, and spring's inevitable allergies. As I get older I have also learned to appreciate the smaller pleasures in life, mostly since those are the only ones you can count on. These are the little things about fall that I love.
I tend to very much orient what I eat towards the seasons, and that means lots of root vegetables in the fall. One of my favorites is a carrot and rutabaga mash, an orange concoction that makes me feel fulfilled, healthy, and full every time I have it. Of course, I also go in for turnips and parsnips too. Give me some root vegetables in my beef stew and a pint of stout and I'm a happy man. I made a big pot of stew last week and it warmed my stomach hours after I ate it.
Some holidays are about religious obligations, others about family obligations. I love Halloween because it is a holiday devoted to fun, costumes, and candy, all things I thoroughly enjoy. I love the excuse to watch cheesy monster movies and to dress up in costumes and make a fool of myself. Now that I have children I enjoy the vicarious experience of sharing Halloween with them. In Halloween I also see the wisdom of the ancients. After around October 31st, the nights do really feel oppressively long and the sun distant and the icy hand of death closer. We need a day to mock the ghosts lest they get the better of us.
I tend to favor dark beer over lighter varieties like pilsener and IPAs, but in the summer heat it feels weird cracking open a porter. This time of year, as the skies darken, so do the hues of my brews. There's nothing like being wrapped in a sweater on a chilly night, sipping on a deep rich brew after a hard day of work. The rich darkness of porters and stouts just seems so much more nourishing.
I love baseball, and what's better than playoff baseball? The normally sedate ballparks of high summer are transformed into packed houses full of fans hanging on every pitch. This post-season, with my Mets in contention, has been even better than usual.
I grew up in the country and am a sucker for any activity that brings me out a farm. Now that I have kids I also look like less of a weirdo for going hog wild for apple picking. This year my wife and I had a blast with my daughters picking the apples right off the tree, apples that my wife converted into cans of apple butter so good I have been eating it for breakfast on my toast almost every day. Apples might be my favorite fruit: subtle and satisfying, the beef stew of fruit, if you will.
OK OK, I know that pumpkin spice has gotten way out of hand. However, let's not blame the poor humble pumpkin itself for some people's over-infatuation with nutmeg. For some reason I find the orange of pumpkins comforting, a bright beacon in a season when night falls sooner and harder and the morning sun gets more sluggish. Painting and carving pumpkins is just too much fun when you've got twin toddlers like I do.
Thanksgiving along with Halloween is a tremendous holiday. There are no presents or religious rituals, just a gigantic feast. My wife and I host her family each year, and we enjoy going all out. I still remember a Thanksgiving four years ago when we prepared the meal for like four days, and the finished product was so absolutely amazing that we dove into the food and wiped it out in about ten minutes in an extreme act of decadence. It was perhaps the greatest food-related moment in my life, and it was followed by days of eating amazing leftovers. Holidays should be simple, and they don't get simpler than Thanksgiving.
Now that I am a homeowner each season brings its own yard work, be it shoveling snow or mowing the lawn. I by far prefer raking leaves. All mindless yard work has a certain appeal to me, since it usually allows me time to think and reflect, which is so rare for me these days. Raking leaves is also something that my daughters can take part in, which makes the process that much more fun.