[The title of this is supposed to be “‘Tis the Season,” but for some reason WordPress isn’t showing it and I can’t seem to fix the problem.]
No, not that season. My son loves singing “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” year-round, knowing that I don’t like Christmas carols except after Thanksgiving, but I am in no way following him in his flagrant disregard for the proper progression of holiday commemoration. No, I mean the season of the squash, the period of pumpkin and pork, the era of…ok, I’m out of alliterations, but you get where I’m going. It’s fall, people! But it’s pre-frost fall, when a few tomatoes are still hanging on (though the smallest shake sends them tumbling), the last cucumber is on the vine (though the leaves around it have gone crisp and brown), soft leafy herbs still wave in the breeze (though the basil plants look fatigued and ready for retirement), and eggplants still shine from the tables at the market (though you can’t but think they wish they’d brought their sweaters).
Sometimes I think late August is the best time of year for eating, since you can take pretty much any fresh vegetables you can find, treat them minimally, and have a meal no chef could surpass, but during these couple of weeks when summer produce is still there to lend its fresh hands to the warmth of fall dishes, I think right now might be even better. As I write this, I smell the red lentils my wife put in the crock pot this morning as they slowly disintegrate into a stew with carrots and onions and an array of pungent spices. This could be a January meal, but I know that before the lentils come to the bowl, a pound of fresh tomatoes just picked from our vines will get blended in and pull us back from the cold, and that a salad of fresh greens, red peppers, and late cucumbers will add its summer strength to the table. In our bellies we’ll find, like the evening light fading outside as we eat, some of the glow of August but also the shadow of December ahead, a happy suspension in that glorious in-between that is early October.