Fall Cooking Now

September 25, 2020

As summer fades into our memory, we mourn its passing, especially this year. We moved through the days with mask-fogged sunglasses and awkward, socially distant gatherings, where we waved at our loved ones across the yard, park or terrace, seated at opposite ends of the bench as we tried to stay connected to each other.

Most of us have been stuck in place since before the spring thaw. We have watched summer from our windows, porches and balconies, growing used to drive-by celebrations. We have suffered tragedies, losses so deep and personal that the grief is without measure.

The change in the season is also marked by our ongoing struggle with the pandemic; the ferocious heat and humidity of summer, wildfires plaguing the west amplified by climate change.

And now, we will experience fall differently as we have the seasons before it. We will see it in ways we may not have when our lives were a constant flurry of activity: work, social lives, family obligations, community events, travel, restaurants and bars.

We see things we may have taken for granted like the gradual change of the leaves in our own neighborhood; the changes in birds and their patterns; how our little gardens went from seed back to seed. We are becoming more attuned to the changes that show the passage of time and the beauty of our fragile planet. And how much we depend on Mother Nature.

We look forward any kind of change or variety to our routine, like the coming of cauliflower and broccoli, woodsy mushrooms, winter squash, apples and pears. Dark leafy greens adorn our plates, supplying us with every nutrient we need, from protein to minerals and vitamins, including calcium.

We relish long-cooked dishes, stews, casseroles, hearty soups and long-cooked bean dishes. We roast fragrantly sweet root vegetables dressed with olive oil and grated lemon zest. We can think of nothing more enjoyable than curling up in a cozy sweater, heaping bowl of soup thick with vegetables and grains, a hunk of whole grain bread and a great movie to pass the evening.

Cool weather brings with it the promise of the harvest, the abundance of summer gathered in to nourish us through the cold days and nights ahead.

Normally, going from summer to fall means a return indoors, but not this year. Many of us have never left the indoors, save for brief anxiety-ridden periods. There’s nothing normal about 2020 so far. We have passed summer as we have passed spring, mostly indoors, sheltering in place so we can burn this virus out and get on with things. Life as we know it? Or knew it? Hardly, but we will live more normally once this virus has been controlled.

In the meantime, try to cherish this time of life moving a little more slowly (for those of us blessed to work a home. For so many, there is the anguish of not working or working tirelessly in essential jobs.) Rise early and enjoy the crisp air. One of the things we have loved doing and feel so blessed to be able, is we rise early as usual, but we work in the office for a bit before breakfast. Our first meal has become a bit of a special treat as we are not rushing off to a meeting or a class or an event. We slow down and enjoy it, cooking lots of foods that boost immune function and help us to weather this storm with a little more ease.

But it’s not a bed of roses either. Our business, like everyone’s has taken its hits. We work harder for less with a hope for the future. Are there frustrations? Surely, Shirley. I have my moments where I have to stop, count to ten, take a deep breath and let loose a string of Italian curse words that sound like a lovely pasta dish you might order in a restaurant, but are in fact, not. My Nonna would be mortified.

I cook with an eye to managing daily stress while keeping our immune systems buzzing along. Soups redolent with anti-inflammatory ingredients, beans, tofu and tempeh for protein, lots and lots of leafy greens for their invaluable contribution to wellness, daily doses of fire cider are the order of the day.

I like to try new dishes but there is a rotation of recipes that I’ll always put in the mix, not only for their nutritional value but because we love them and feel comforted when they are on the table. Dishes like:





…and this soup; always this soup:


We still bake our bread and desserts. We stop what we are doing and eat together. We celebrate our blessings. I meditate daily to manage.

A lot has changed in the last six months. Our food supply has improved and shopping is less stressful now. In my city, some restrictions have eased. I can work out at my gym, outdoor classes with limited numbers and socially distant. I feel less fear when I go for a walk (but is that because things are better or am I just used to the weirdness now?) We do our jobs as best we can, in light of no travel or in person classes or events. I have become adept at Zoom.

And we cook as though our lives depend on it because as cold and flu season come on us, it most certainly does.