Fall, the final season of the year. Yes, we may end the year with Winter, however there are only 10 days of Winter at the end of the year; so do we really have five seasons in a year? Sounds like a great trick question! We’ll leave that to Alton Brown and another blog.
Fall is my favorite season, when we finally get a respite from the summer heat, and here in Texas that blistering summer heat can kiss my...well, never mind. Fall brings us so much to enjoy with these cooler temps which make our outdoor, and even our indoor activities so much more tolerable. We finally have football season, hunting season opens up on a wide variety of game, Fall festivals seem to pop up everywhere, my fave - the Texas State Fair - kicks off, Thanksgiving is upon us, and what does all of this mean? Food, yes food! It’s a key to all these activities, from hot dogs at football games, corn dogs at the State Fair, to a packed lunch for a bird hunt and campfire cooking for the outdoorsman. The Fall grand finale is Thanksgiving, AKA Turkey Day! Oh yippie! Three plus days of food preparation for 15 minutes of food ecstasy. Man, I can smell the bird now! I often say that some of the greatest memories of our lives are associated with food, no matter what type of socio economic situation in our lives. From family BBQs to Christmas/ Hanukah/Kwanzaa dinner, the food we celebrate with may vary, yet it holds a bond of family and friends. One of my favorite stories goes back to 1967. It was Thanksgiving, and our family gathered at the Newton Family Farm in south Irving/N Grand Prairie, AKA Shady Grove. It was a cold, chilly, overcast day, and I was fighting a bug. My brothers and cousins were shuffled outside to chase leaves and one another, along with the mischief that comes with a posse of young boys. Unfortunately, I was relegated to a hoop rug in front of the fireplace in the den. My father bought me a Tonka truck, and I lapped that hoop rug with that truck like a dedicated NASCAR driver. My grandfather and father had positioned themselves far enough from the kitchen in the den, along with me, watching TV and talking about cattle, upcoming chores, and what was on their minds. My grandfather didn’t allow smoking in the house except pipe smoking, his preference. Along with the pipe smoke, I could smell those incredible smells of Thanksgiving dinner preparation, like the multiple birds roasting, gravies simmering, the smell of cornbread dressing baking, and finally the smell of oak wood burning in the fireplace. This was the last Thanksgiving with my grandfather. He passed away the following June, and the family never gathered there for a holiday again. As bittersweet as it was, it was a holiday that was one for the memories! In 2001, I was in San Diego celebrating Thanksgiving with my former in-laws. Now understand Thanksgiving and Christmas in Southern California is not quite what I was use to. The change of weather being so pleasant didn’t really give me that feel of the Fall holiday season, well so I thought. I was enjoying the evening prior to Turkey Day with my father-in-law, his sister, Jane, and her husband, Tad, whom had flown in from Boston, I’m quite sure to get away from those cold temps. Now, the temperature in San Diego was in the upper 50’s, and we were sitting on the patio next to a chiminea with some pinion burning, talking about what men talk about, absolutely nothing, and we could smell the early T-Day dinner of turkey and all of the accoutrements coming from the kitchen where my mother-in-law and Jane were cooking. Tad pulls out a pipe, stokes it up, and suddenly I was taken back to Thanksgiving 1967 on the Newton Farm in Shady Grove, to that hoop rug and my Tonka truck. Food magic! Very seldom can I remember names of people I’ve met along the way. I notice the face and say “I know that person, but where from and their name”, however you put me in a market, restaurant, cafe, party with something being cooked, it automatically takes me back to an occasion with that smell permeating my memory! I truly believe that in a world of materialism, technology, too busy to stop and smell the roses, “let’s get together”, etc; you’ve gotta stop, make plans with those important to you, make a meal, turn off all technology, maybe put on some low volume music, eat, talk, laugh and most importantly, make a memory, for life is too short, and the older we get, our friends are fewer and truly far between. I encourage you to do just that this holiday season. Happy Fall, Happy Thanksgiving, Bon Appetite!!