I live in Tucson, Arizona where there are varying degrees of warm, sunny weather throughout the year, but not much of seasons going on. We finally get fall come December first (and it’s not the season changer that Vermont boasts of if you know what I mean). But I’m spending this fall with my sister, brother in law, and new baby niece in Portland, Oregon and it has been beautiful to see the trees changing color, the rain turning everything mushy, and the clouds casting a gray over everything. Of course it’s been even better because I know it will come to an end and I’ll go back to the warm sunshine and vitamin D- and the baby! (Did I mention I have the most adorable niece known to man?!)
One fun part of experiencing fall this year is celebrating the food changes. In Arizona we might pull out the squash and apple recipes about this time of year but it has more to do with tradition than it does the need to eat warm, hearty meals to get us through the cool evenings. Here you want everything flavored pumpkin because it feels like pumpkin weather, you see it in the puddles and the rain coats, you feel it in the mold allergies and the foggy mornings, and you don’t want to get out of bed due to the darkness and the cold.
Fall food is comfort food. Between the warm beverages, the harvest flavors, the oven being on all day, you want to curl up with a good book and watch the rain from the comfort of a blanket nest on the couch.
I encourage everyone to take one fall day- no matter what temperature you live in- put the hot cider on the stove for all day warming so you can have a cup whenever you like, put together a meal that has some squash, apple, pork flavor combination and at least pretend that winter is coming and you’re enjoying the calm before the storm.
Sometimes you simply need to enjoy the seasons, no matter what the window says is happening outside.
(P.s. To my friends below the equator- read this again in another six months and appreciate what I have to say then!)
It’s not always easy to feed people.
Sometimes it all falls apart, or you burn everything, everyone ends up being late, or they can’t make it last minute. More likely you end up feeling taken for granted as people don’t show appreciation for your time and effort. They don’t know that you are trying to show them love through food and they just see it as a meal, which of course it is so you can’t argue. But it’s also a sign of love and community and it’s supposed to do more than just fuel you. It’s hard to communicate all of that in a meatloaf or a pot roast though- and that’s when you’ve put the extra effort in.
I want you to know that I know that. That I have experienced the burnout of feeding others. That I am not unaware of the phenomenon of feeling taken advantage of.
I also want you to know that I still think it’s worth it. That I still think you should continue feeding those you love, that having them over for dinner and bringing them meals or gathering around a potluck is still important. Even when we are burned out and spread thin we still need to eat and though people lose sight of thanking the chef or tipping the cook you are nourishing a part of people they often lose sight of themselves.
We need food, we need meals, but we also need people, we need each other.
So keep at it. One more meal. Always just one more meal. And the next time someone cooks for you remember to kiss the cook, to thank the host, and for goodness sake do the dishes!
I was young when I went to Cyprus for several months with a friend.
It’s hard to believe that at nineteen I was the responsible adult of the team. She was just seventeen and we were both young and unsure of ourselves.
I don’t regret going while I was young but I know I would appreciate it differently if I went now.
We didn’t know how to be thrifty but also cook great food and we didn’t realize what fresh and delicious food surrounded us. So we made large spaghetti dinners and rice casseroles, barely utilizing all the local foods and flavors available to us.
We did spend a large chunk of our money at the bakery down the street where we consumed large quantities of incredible baklava and indulged in the fresh squeezed juices that were so inexpensive.
When I think back to that time I don’t regret any of the meals we ate out or spent our well hoarded money on. We were romanced by the restaurant owner down the street who encouraged us to try new things and eat more and more, and worried over by our English landlady who worried both about our diet and our lack of planning and adventuring out. Thanks to the two of them we ate well, tried new dishes, branched out, saw new sights, and enjoyed our time so far away from home on an island halfway between Europe and the Middle East.
Cyprus is a cultural confusion in some ways. It’s Greek in so many ways, including flavors and traditions. Britain has had a military standing there for long enough that it’s influence is deep and strong and the fish and chips are delicious surrounded by water like it is. The north of Cyprus is occupied by Turkey and has a culture and flavor all it’s own.
Subtle things make you realize what a divided island it is, from the “Greek delight” sold to tourists on one side while “Turkish delight” is sold on the other. To the fact that you have to have a visa for crossing the border but they won’t put it directly in your passport as Turkish occupied Cyprus isn’t a recognized country and the visas presence could hinder your travel plans in the future. Driving across the border and crossing the UN safety corridor is enough to convince you that something is wrong.
Two different cultures with such strong and flavorful food combined on one island could make for some delicious fusion but the food is as divided as the island. And while they use so many of the same seasonings and ingredients they want you to see them as different, as seperate. Because while they food may bring us together in so many ways it also has the power to show us that we’re different, to help us claim who we are when who we are is being challenged or denied.
I’m glad I went to Cyprus young and experienced it the way I did. I learned a lot and have become a better traveller and a better eater because of that trip. I would like to go back though, a little older and a little wiser, and see with new eyes the way the island is separated and the families and people who are affected by politics around them. I would like to go back and eat there again, feed myself on their island vegetables and their many cultured seasonings.
Travel has a way of feeding us in ways we don’t always realize at the time. It opens our eyes to new foods, new ways of eating, and, when we’re paying attention, it teaches us about food and the people who eat it.