A Seasonal Shift: Autumn
The evenings are drawing in and, despite the belatedly warm weather we have been enjoying here in the UK, there is a cool undercurrent in the air. It can only mean that Autumn is on its way. Already the colours of the leaves are shifting to the golds and browns and yellows, and those that have already fallen crunch underfoot – that heavenly sound, best appreciated now before the rains later in the season turn the footpaths to sludge.
The air feels crisper, cleaner, with a promise of a new beginnings. September always feels like the start of something new. Maybe it is memories of the school year, but Autumn feels like it is a great time to start over: you are bristling with energy you have built up over the Summer months, and the daunting task of starting afresh seems more achievable when surrounded by the promise of comfort.
It has always seemed strange that we should chose January – a month already imbued with a sense of hardship – with the additional burden of renewing personal pledges: Autumn resolutions are much easier to keep than Winter ones.
Autumn also welcomes the best seasonal festivals. Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night, and the beginning of the countdown to Christmas: celebrations that make the most of the earlier darkness and a yearning for warming food on chilly nights. They are communal, outdoor events, best celebrated with friends or family, before escaping indoors to warm-up at home or in the pub.
For those of us with a preference for an Autumnal colour palette, every walk is a pleasure as the landscape comes alive with shades of gold. Woodland avenues develop a carpet of leaves you can’t resist kicking, and single trees are transformed into bright flames in yellow or red.
More than any other season, Autumn has strong links with its food. We yearn for warming chilli con carne while watching a fireworks display, served with a large dollop of soured cream, or salted chips picked from a deep paper cone: some food just tastes better when eaten outside on a cold evening.
The pumpkin becomes food royalty and – in part thanks to Halloween – windows and doorsteps are adorned with Jack O’ Lanterns and other squashes in oranges, greens, blues and whites. And then there are the autumn fruits – quinces, pears, apples and medlars – that turn our summer desserts into pies, crumbles and puddings.
Autumn is also the peak for foraging. The hedgerows are brightened by bright blackberries and sloes, as well as other seasonal goodies like rosehips and haws, sweet chestnuts and cobnuts. And then there are the mushrooms. So far we have not been very brave, limiting ourselves to only the most instantly recognisable species: Shaggy Inkcaps, Puffballs (both Giant and Common) and Fairy Ring Champignons. Something as simple as mushrooms, garlic and cream on toast is transformed when you have used your own harvest of wild mushrooms.
In case you haven’t been able to tell, we love Autumn: the leaves, the seasonal shift, the feeling of renewal, the colours, the food. Of course, there are highlights in every season, and it is the fact that the seasons change that makes them so exciting. But if pushed to choose a favourite, we would choose Autumn every time.