Though I love sharp pencils, new notebooks, and fresh starts, September is a difficult month for the cook in me. Sure, the summer has been flush with produce, but I have grown tired of eggplant, zucchini, corn, and (gasp) even peaches. My tastebuds are starting to yearn for rich, deeply flavored dishes, but the weather remains too warm to justify them. And so I find myself craving butternut squash, heavy cream, sage, caramelized onions, cinnamon, pears, and pumpkin. As the summer harvest wanes, it feels like I am just biding my time until the foliage begins to blaze, the air blows crisp, and the jack-o-lanterns crack their toothy grins.
Maggy’s autumnal addiction to pumpkin has almost become something of a family joke. She loves pumpkin everything—pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin quick breads, pumpkin beer, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin soup. You get the idea. We like to think it’s because she was deprived of it for so long when she lived in England. (The Brits don’t really vibe on the whole Thanksgiving thing.) But truth be told, for the six years Maggy lived outside the States our family functioned as her very own fleet of pumpkin pack animals. We’d shove it in our suitcases and carry-ons, drag it to the post office, box it up and mail it. Heck, we’d even push it on friends planning to visit the UK in the near future.
Though I do share Maggy’s deep love of pumpkin, what I love even more about fall is apples—sweet-tart and crisp eaten off the trees; warm and bubbly in spiced pies; russet and refreshing in apple cider. We’ve already been apple-picking once this fall, and I cooked them down into quarts of chunky sauce. But, this weekend marked an even happier autumnal occasion: I bought this season’s first chilly jug of cider.
Embarrassingly enough, Anthony had to keep me from opening and swigging it in the car. When I finally got home, I grabbed a saucepan and splashed in some cider and a handful of spices. In the time it took me to change into an oversized sweater and select a book, it was seductively steaming on the stovetop. Sipping my mulled cider slowly out of giant mug—with a piece of pumpkin-pecan muffin—made the last month of wading through summer squash all the more worth it.