This week is probably the most beautiful one here. The woods, which are dark and green and gloomy in summer, and dark and bare and gloomy in winter, turn into a festive array of yellow, red and green. They manage to bring a little joy to the overcast days.
I am no fan of autumn. I never understood its charms when living in Italy: to us it is just the rain season. It can rain for weeks, with no breaks (this is happening right now in Italy. Looks like someone up there wants to wipe out all the dirt, which sounds like a good idea, actually; but the ones who get wiped away are never the right ones). In a place like the UK, where it rains most of the summer, autumn can be much sunnier than summer itself. It is a beautiful period. I still remember one poem by Emily Dickinson, which I happen to remember by heart: ‘The morns are meeker than they were.. ‘. I have good reasons for remembering it. When our English teacher made us analyse it for a test, the whole class, 30 reasonably well learned students, concluded it was about spring. How can you say something positive at all about autumn? Take 30 random Italian guys: we won’t understand a thing about autumn charms. The poem is very clear, but we were all so sure no one could speak about it in such terms, that we happily ignored all evidences.
With time, I have learned to appreciate this season’s subtleties. Every autumn I also rediscover squash, one of my favourite ingredients ever. The farmers market is bursting with beautiful squashes, but the famous butternut is not the best one around. The winner here is the small Hokkaido, bright orange, together with a very dense and sweet one with a thick and dark green peel, not unlike Kabocha. Also pumpkins are quite flavourful.
I try new recipes when I am so inclined, but I like squash so much that every time I develop a series of simple go-to favourites, which are what I cook most times, on a daily basis. I had years where most of the pumpkins would go in pasta (I love gratin pasta with savoy cabbage and pumpkin) or just mashed with garlic or shallots and some herbs. This year I often go for soups and roasted squash.