Vail Daily My View: Back to the kitchen
Vail, CO Colorado
I hate to see summer go. Even though there is much to love about fall, I cry a little inside every time I have to put away my flips-flops and sandals. It’s difficult knowing I’m faced with six months of boots, closed-toed shoes and other encapsulating footwear. Winter is coming. Sigh.
The problem is we’re not satisfied with where we are in the year. When it’s summer, it’s too hot. When it’s fall, we’re wishing it was still summer and we begin cursing the off-season. In the off-season, we’re dreading the winter.
So I’m trying to embrace fall with a little more enthusiasm, focusing on the gorgeous changing leaves, the new TV season, getting to turn off the sprinkler system resulting in lower water bills, rediscovering my jeans and sweaters again, trying to get excited about boot shopping.
This year it hasn’t actually felt much like autumn yet, what with the daytime temperatures still in the 70’s and 80’s. So it’s been a little tough mentally to make the transition.
My girlfriend that moved to LA last year is really struggling with this seasonal change there. She keeps telling me that even thought it’s still warm here, at least we have the indicators that fall is upon us, with all our mountains glowing gold and colder nights. In Southern California, her only indication that autumn has arrived is that football season started, so she has an overwhelming desire to make big pots of chili. But when it’s still 114 degrees outside, logic and instinct are clashing.
She has hit upon the best part of autumn. The return to the kitchen. So many people around me this week are suddenly talking about cooking and baking and roasting. After a summer of not wanting to turn on the stove or the oven for fear of bringing the house temperatures up to dangerous levels, fall marks the time to get back in there.
I think it’s a very primal need. All summer we have been busy living life, enjoying grilling and fresh vegetables and crunchy salads. And now that our nights are crisp and the leaves are crunchy, we have an instinctual need to bulk up for the approaching winter. Sort of like squirrels collecting nuts before the snow.
It’s time to start whipping up dishes that feel and smell and taste autumnal (my favorite Martha Stewart word!). The first thing I made, in honor of Oktoberfest, was bratwurst with sauteed onions, sauerkraut and apples cooked in apple cider. Mmmmm. Tastes like fall.
Much of the food talk I’ve heard has been around things that we remember from childhood or meals that have become traditional for us in the fall: chicken enchiladas, chicken noodle soup, pork roasts, baked pasta dishes with cheesy goodness oozing through it. Yum! All of these are nurturing, warm, filling foods, designed to make us feel cozy and secure in the knowledge that we won’t be cold and hungry over the winter. Or able to move, due to the food coma.
Baking is what really defines the seasonal transition to me. Now that I can tolerate a little kitchen heat, I’ve brought out the standing mixer and cookie sheets again.
I may be doing something more with my baking this fall. I’m considering entering a cookie in the Beaver Creek Cookie Contest, the annual competition to select the best chocolate chip cookie to be served on silver trays at the base of the Centennial Chairlift all winter.
I won’t divulge any secrets just yet, but I’ve been spending time in my test kitchen. I tweaked one of my mom’s Christmas cookie recipes, making it chocolate chip-esque while maintaining its original deliciousness. The boys have given it their enthusiastic endorsement; in fact, they’re the one who suggested I enter it into the contest.
I’m tempted, because it just seems wrong deprive the world of this delectable treat. The thing giving me pause is the sheer volume of cookies to be produced if my cookie makes the finals. (And honestly, I’m quite certain it would. No false modesty here.) I’d have to make 1,000 bite-sized samples to be served to the masses in about 10 minutes flat on November 24, opening day of the mountain.
That’s a little intimidating. But at least it would keep my mind off the departure of summer.