by Sammy Caiola
Native Foods Cafe
For as long as I can remember, autumn has been my favorite season. There’s always something in the air—the scent of ripening gourds or the subtle howl of winter winds—that transports me to another dimension entirely. A soft, familiar place of turtleneck sweaters, gardening gloves and hiking boots that crunch mercilessly over dead leaves in glowing gold and burnt sienna. Afternoons spent raking those leaves into perfect piles only to plunge into them with my older brother, the two of us rolling and flailing in a fit of giggles until we’re called in for hot cocoa and oven-roasted pumpkin seeds.
Nostalgia aside, autumn has many important associations in the physical and spiritual world, and I’d like to take this opportunity to greet the season (and the delicious cuisine that accompanies it). Here are my personal tips on how to celebrate autumn in the most wholesome, natural way possible:
Stay Outside As Long as You Can
Metaphorically, autumn is the middleman between the fading light of summer and the forthcoming darkness of winter. It is a slow descent from life to death, a sentiment mirrored in the slow decay and departure of the leaves. Practically, this means we cool down from the summer heat and gradually sink into the cold of winter (if you’re from Chicago like me, ‘cold’ is an understatement).
But before that immobilizing chill comes a great flood of energy as mother earth bears her harvest in full color. For two months, the trees burst in glorious yellows and oranges and the sun shines mellow in a breezy sky, which is ideal for outdoor farmer’s markets, nature hikes, pumpkin picking and other autumn activities. So don’t coop up inside just yet. Even if the grill is tucked away, there’s still plenty of time for afternoon picnics and evening walks or mornings in the garden. Don’t injustice yourself by missing September- it’s a real gem if you stick around for it.
Native Foods Café uses this photo courtesy of weather.com
Autumn is a time of life before death; of harvesting land before it turns barren. Late-season crops like squash, sweet corn, string beans, collard greens and turnips abound in the produce aisle alongside seasonal spices like fennel, rosemary and cinnamon. Between office potlucks, school meetings and bigger gatherings like Thanksgiving and Halloween, you’ll find no shortage of opportunity to indulge in these new flavors. There will be more than enough to go around—so much so that you’ll be packing up soups and baked goods to get you through the brutal winter.
So take autumn as an opportunity to surround yourself with loved ones and say thanks for what the earth has given. Think also of your own work and reward—the fruit of your labors and the bounty of happiness in your life. Spend time with your friends before the cold weather dissuades them from socializing. And don’t forget to bring them into Native Foods to try the carrot cupcake J
Native Foods Café uses this photo courtesy of fineartsamerica.com
Make a Schedule
With fall also comes a change in energy—a shift away from lackadaisical Saturdays by the pool and toward energy and productivity. Embrace this change. Whether you’re jumping back into work after Labor Day or back into school after a long summer, try to see autumn as a time for rejuvenation and fresh starts. Establish a new workout routine or add more healthful foods to your diet. Subscribe to that magazine you’ve always been meaning to read or pick up the guitar that’s been silently sulking in the garage. Consider it a pre-resolution of sorts. And if you can’t keep it, you can always try again in January!
Whatever way you look at it, autumn is part of a very important natural cycle that affects the earth and those who live on it. So take a deep breath, drink some chai (or apple cider, or warm almond milk, or whatever makes you happy) and think about how to celebrate autumn the Native way (hint…the restaurant’s fall menu is a great place to start!).
Just one of the TONS of autumn-inspired recipes on the Native Foods Blog. *Potato Fennel Gratin.
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