Celebrating autumn

By Caryl Clem:

September 23 marks the first day of autumn. Toiling farmers are grateful for the harvesting of their crops. As the days grow cooler, you feel renewed energy to join others for festive holidays during the fall season. My enthusiasm to travel to an apple orchard remains as poignant as my first time searching for the perfect apple. In the past few years, I preferred the apples to be picked, labeled, and available for tasting. Last weekend I was a kid again biting into crisp apples discerning which apple candidate was the winner. With my friend, we discussed what to purchase from the selection of sugar free preserves and while drinking a sample of apple cider. On the return trip home, several apple edibles chased hunger away.

One of my favorite flavors of ice cream is Pumpkin Spice.  Various squashes appear on supermarket shelves increasing food options for dinner. Popular favorites include butternut, earthy, sweet Chinese Kabocha, Spaghetti ‘s light strands great for sauces, round acorn squash , sweet Japanese red Kuri , sweet dumpling squash, delicata squash, sugar pumpkin ,blue hubbard and banana squash. In every meal, an autumn food star can spice up your palette.

An increasing number of consumers are learning how to preserve harvested vegetables and fruits. The pressure cooker would beep and whistle while my mother showed me how to convert the entire garden’s bounty into jars. The heat outside often matched the heat inside our tiny kitchen. Canning is a process that demands fortitude and patience.  Instead of the long canning process, freezing, drying and fermentation techniques are used more often.  To acquaint yourself with the newest techniques, check out this article.

Chicago offers 3 large beer festivals at the end of September, 312 Block Party Goose Island Brewery, United Center, September 20 2019-September 21 2019 / Revolution Oktoberfest, Revolution Brewing, Logan Square, BeerHoptacular, Vertiport Chicago, Little Italy, UIC, September 28 2019.  If you are in the mood to sip a beer, here is a calendar website There is abundance of small town beer festivals as well as in the suburbs.

Harvest feasts vary across the world.  In grade school, coloring pictures of Pilgrims and the Native Americans taught that the harvest Thanksgiving was first celebrated in the last Thursday in November. The history books left out the first harvest dinner celebration held in Jamestown. Germans served bountiful meals to celebrate the harvest time after the autumn moon that fell on the first Sunday in October. Both the Protestant and Catholic churches honored this day with religious services. Jamestown residents in 1610 held an Erntedankfest known as a Harvest Home) supper.

Pilgrims from England had the experience of participating in a religious feast that occurred after honoring St Michael’s mass on September 29.  All gathered at one location to participate in a food and craft market with dancing, singing, eating and playing games.  Maidens in parades wore corn wreaths; before the feast was to begin a queen was chosen. Lastly, townsfolk adorned the home and alter with corn dolls to ensure prosperity.  This holiday would happen after the women preformed the final “gleaning” of the fields. Those who ate geese thought it would lead to financial prosperity. The county fairs at the end of summer bear many similarities to old harvest customs. During Celtic rule in Ireland, harvest was on August 15.  A favorite part of the Irish festival was a horse swimming competition. In America, the Thanksgiving dinner was proclaimed a National Holiday by President Lincoln in 1863.

Fall has arrived featuring the gratitude for a bountiful harvest, the satisfaction of eating autumn star foods with friends and family, attending festivals blending old and new customs, and exploring the world of past and present when retelling ghost stories.