Schools started early this year. I thought I might experience misty eyes and a tug at the heart, but the day mostly went unnoticed by me.
Typically in the Pacific Northwest we enjoy Indian summer, which begins right after Labor Day. However, the topic of most casual conversation these days is not Indian summer, but cold and rain. Fall definitely seems to be here, though summer gives the occasional push-back. There is a daily battle between clouds, sprinkles and sun, and when the sun wins it usually happens at the end of a day.
Despite the gloom, some flowers are still happily blooming as if they are just getting a start on life, which they are since summer didn’t arrive until mid-July. My hardy fuchsia is one example of a bush that is not about to give up this soon, whatever the signs of a change of season the rest of us are noticing.
I’ve found another source of pleasure amidst the gray days, namely, finding recipes to go with all the fruits and vegetables that are still available in our wonderful farmers’ markets. You don’t need recipes for the nectarines, plums and peaches. Just remember to eat them over the sink to catch the juice that is guaranteed to drip down your arm. When I find I have accidentally purchased enough fruit for a family of 14, I turn to the expert to help me avoid wasting any of it and he advises, “Desserts.” Joy of Cooking‘s blueberry and peach buckle thrilled our dinner guests one evening, and pear cake from Mauny Kaseborg (whose outstanding recipes I can no longer find on-line) was a hit with my husband’s co-workers. Pluot and Boysenberry cobbler, from the cookbook Eating Local and featured in the Seattle Times, never left home. We took care of it without help from others. Although I couldn’t find the cobbler recipe on the Times website, I did find another one I tried and liked– skillet pork and peaches. And there is no shortage of fruit recipes on foodnetwork.com, allrecipes.com, other websites, and in a few zillion published cookbooks.
We’ve also played a role, albeit a smaller one, in saving members of the vegetable world from ruination. We did not run when our next-door neighbor called over the fence to get our attention and pointed to a candidate for the most-massive-vegetable-ever-grown-in-this-state contest. “We must have missed this one,” she said without a hint of irony in her voice, knowing that this is akin to announcing that a hippo had just plopped down in one of her patio chairs, but she had hardly noticed it. “Would you like it?” Without flinching, we saw our duty and responded appropriately. This mother of all zucchinis became zucchini bread, sauteed zucchini, grilled zucchini, fried zucchini, baked zucchini, roasted zucchini, and would have become fricasseed zucchini had we not used it up just in the nick of time.
For the first time in years, we managed to grow enough tomatoes for every salad for a month and many future spaghetti dinners. If only they weren’t still green. Having time to cook and access to ripe, fresh, mostly organic, salivatingly tasty produce is something for which I am very grateful…even if the cloud cover is building outside.