Early Autumn Yearnings

Coco Chanel welcomes autumn weather by lying on the piano=-tangledpasta.net
Coco Chanel welcomes autumn weather by lying on the piano=-tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Today has been my kind of Midwest October day: sunny, cool, and breezy. If I had to choose among the four seasons we enjoy in the Midwest, my favorites would be spring and autumn. After awakening from a winter sleep, spring days greet me with leaves unfurling, blossoms on the pink crabapple tree, and with crocus and grape hyacinths rousing their purple heads. It is the Earth’s renewal as the days grow longer, and cheery sunshine abounds. Yet as the dog days of summer exact their toll, I begin to notice the maple trees that line my street take on colors other than that of green. In this early October, now the trees are brimming with leaves of fiery red, yellow, and orange hues. The Burning Bush has taken on a decidedly deep red tone. Even the Red Twig Dogwood is showing a sign that its thin branches will turn bright red and remain so throughout the winter months, brightening the snowy white landscape. Sunset now is earlier than it was even a month ago. It is akin to suddenly a nightshade being pulled down to darken a room for sleep.

My thoughts turn on these crisp air-laced days to cooking thick soups, casseroles, and even to coffee, which I rarely drink, inveterate green tea drinker that I am. In fact, one of my beloved dense Italian soups with white beans, pearl barley, and assorted vegetables is simmering away in the slow-cooker as I write. Yesterday morning I arose with a spring in my step and a hankering for baked oatmeal. Putting on the kettle for tea, I turned to my favorite recipe – a modification of one my dear sister-in-law Kelley gave me some years ago. Sadly, as I pawed through the pantry and then through the refrigerator shelves, I realized there was no applesauce to be had, nor could I locate the drum of Quaker Oats. The morning suddenly seemed skewed. Outside the skies were overcast, and by the time I left the house to meet a friend for an overpriced drink at Starbucks, it was raining. An hour or so later, after bidding my chum goodbye, I made the supreme effort to go do a bit of grocery shopping, a task I rank only slightly above laundry, dusting, and vacuuming. In other words, I detest it. Even with an umbrella in hand, by the time I loaded the groceries into the car, and then unloaded them from the trunk upon arrival home, I was drenched. The pouring rain, the heavy winds, and looming darkness combined for good reasons to hunker settle in at home, don comfy clothes, and spend the weekend writing and cooking.

Yes, life in the Midwest is good in early autumn.

Ciao for now.


Quiche-less in The Heartland

Quiche @ St. Honore
Quiche @ St. Honore (Photo credit: bkajino)

Savoring my first cup of green tea on the patio, I decided to make a quiche for breakfast.  With a spring in my step, I returned to the kitchen.  Sadness overcame me as I peered into the refrigerator and realized the egg holder held only two; four eggs were needed to make my quiche recipe.  What to do…make baked oatmeal with fruit?  It was not a baked oatmeal sort of morning.  Whip up a batch of pancakes with fresh blueberries?  No signs of maple syrup appeared on the pantry horizon.  Pancakes lack purpose if there is no maple syrup to complement them.  Honey and agave, other choices, also eluded me.

Annoyed with myself for postponing grocery shopping, I admitted I would have to trek to the grocery store that afternoon because I was too lazy to race to the Farmer’s Market.  My thoughts returned to what to forage for breakfast.  I nixed going out to eat; the Arts section of The New York Times beckoned.  Home cooking satisfies my soul, as does the newspaper on a weekend morning.  Dinner, already planned, was going to consist of French lentil stew chocked full of vegetables.

Like a good Italian, I reached for the loaf of fresh Italian bread, slathered it with vegan “butter” and apricot jam, poured myself another cup of tea and returned to reading.  After perusing the Arts section, I would make baked oatmeal for the family.

Baked oatmeal required only two eggs.

Ciao for now.