|Ah. Autumn. Ah. Artichokes!|
|October 28, 2002|
It's finally time to say "Ta!" to tank tops, "Smell ya later, sandals," and "Hello, nubbly goodness!" to sweaters.
There's something that gets in my blood when this time of year rolls around. I've got a hankering to go to Target and stock up on clean notebooks, packets of multi-colored erasers, the largest box of Crayola crayons, and the newest wide-eyed kitten Trapper Keeper with a zip-lock pencil case. I just love this time of year.
It's no secret that I am not a hot weather person. Give me my fireplaces and cups of hot tea and keep your sticky shirts and greasy faces. When Bostonians hear me say that thirty-five degrees is a refreshing change, their typical response is, "Well, that's because you're from Minnesota," which makes absolutely no sense at all. And let me tell you why. True, we have winters up there cold enough to make a Siberian husky think twice about going to the bathroom, but we also have really hot, nasty, sweat-slathering summers. I just happen to prefer the cold to the heat. For one thing, I sleep much better. We finally got a second window air conditioner this summer in an attempt to beat off most of Beantown's evil humidity, but I still can't wait for the day Central Air walks up and introduces himself to our lives. The heat just plain makes me crabby but my mood improves immensely the day I have reason to revisit my stash of jeans and shake down the feather comforter.
Autumn is all reds, browns, oranges, and yellows. I was never partial to surrounding myself with such uncomfortably warm colors -- preferring instead the cool tones of blues and greens, especially to counter-act the blistering heat of summer -- but the other day I brought home an armful of crimson and flame roses to festify the apartment, and I realized that I'm starting to look at those hot colors with a different eye. A hungry eye.
I see mellow red grapes -- like garnets wrapped in green velvet -- nestling in folds of a salad with toasted walnuts, crumbled tangs of gorgonzola, and a sharp vinaigrette laced with Zinfandel. Then there's the sweet spiced-pumpkin and yogurt dish at The Helmand, which is delicious at any time of year, but we seem to crave it more in the winter months. Salmon also takes on a new wardrobe. In the summer, it barely wears squeezed limes and thyme, but in the colder months, it wraps itself in wood-roasted mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, and rich tomato purees. I start craving thick slices of hearty brown bread smeared with lumps of soft butter that will stick to the ribs and sop up a lamb stew with wedges of purple onions and russet potatoes. Grilled chicken breasts served cold with lemon is seasonally replaced by roast chicken with mahogany cracking skin and golden juices. And mashed potatoes with rivulets of butter seem to match up well with any meaty main -- be it sizzling lamb chops with cracked pepper, butterflied loin of pork rolled around orchard apples, or a broiled rib eye. Rare and juicy.
It's also soup season and I am free to experiment with wild porcini and portabellas, slurred by sherry. Or simmer a sturdy French onion with amber ale and thyme. Boeuf Bourguignon permeates our hallway with its rich steam and draws in salivating guests and neighbors, while a subtler brew of delicate consommé is a soothing meal for two tired students with over-active cats.
Even libations take on a rosier hue and put the same in our cheeks. We trade in our cans of icy, dry, hard cider for tiny glasses of silken port that slip down our throats like the devil in velvet trousers. In our Irish coffee glasses, we warm our hands on ruby-red wine mulled with heady cloves and orange peel, stirred with cinnamon sticks. And instead of ordering up crystal clear mojitos at our local hangout, we get brown bottles of our ever-present favorite, Post Road Pumpkin Ale.
The nights grow longer and surely, the belt gets looser.