I dragged down all the “gifts from the kitchen” books I own last night to try to find some inspiration for holiday gift giving that is from the heart rather than from the pocketbook. I started thinking about fall and winter, my two favorite seasons. I know that puts me in the minority. I am not a sun worshipper (which explains my pastiness) and humidity and heat are not fine friends of mine. I like sweaters and the crunch of leaves and those bright blue crystalline skies we get in autumn here. For me, 55 degrees Fahrenheit is the perfect temp for outdoor frolicking.
When it’s chilly outside, baking makes so much more sense. Having the oven on all day doesn’t mean your house is too hot to breathe in, but that it’s cozily warm, especially in the kitchen and all those smells associated with baking and childhood and the magic of holidays perfume every room. Cooler weather means hearty food, belly warming stews and soups, hot cocoa, pumpkin and pecan pies, breakfast breads with cranberries and walnuts.
For the autumnal equinox, I always make my Fall Soup. It’s a hybrid that’s developed from the original recipe for Gypsy soup published in the first Moosewood Cookbook, which evolved into the butternut squash-based soup in Crescent Dragonwagon’s Soup & Bread cookbook. I added and deleted a few things and I love how the soup uses the last of summer and the first of fall by mixing young winter squashes and late tomatoes. It’s wonderful with a crusty bread and a astringently dressed salad of bitter greens, apples and walnuts.
Of course, I’m rushing the season. It’s only the 15th and the high today is 85, fully 30 degrees warmer than my bliss range. The boychick’s birthday (on the 6th) always seems like the real beginning of fall for me despite the lingering heat. My gypsy soup was the first thing I cooked after he was born and our first outing was for an equinox party. I distinctly remember it was the first evening I’d needed a sweater after the miserably hot August we’d had and the boychick was all bundled in baby warmth cuteness. He wore shorts and a t-shirt to school this morning, a good sign that my soup has to wait a couple more weeks.