“Oh, it’s a long, long way from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September….”
No, not that September Song. I love it and understand why it became a classic, but as my own expiration date comes nearer, I’ve become more grounded and less lyrical. Mine is a more basic melody that’s born of apples and cinnamon and a combined aroma that can bring grown men to their knees. Add to that the fragrance of bread baking in the oven, and you have my version of September Song. It’s come early this year and I’m more than ready to open my fall kitchen.
We’ve had a summer of record breaking heat in Oregon. It’s been so warm that noon day exercise was ill-advised and best left to mad dogs, Englishmen and collegiate athletes with more brawn than brains. I’ve pushed my walks back to the early morning hours and generally hit the river trail just as the birds are waking the sun. At least I think that’s what they’re doing. It’s too late in the year for them to be exercising territorial imperatives and I’m too small to raise their hackles. The river in these early hours is magical, and as its current meanders, its reflective surface gleams like a polished emerald. When it’s warm, hurried steps, whose only goal is completion, prevent looking at its quiet beauty. Now that the weather has broken, there is again time for the eyes’ camera to capture all the trail has to offer. I was unprepared for this early leaf fall, but view it as a harbinger of things to come. It’s time to pull out the cinnamon and nutmeg and get the kitchen ready for fall’s bounty. August be damned. It’s time for a test run.
Local Gravenstein apples are in markets now, and while they aren’t the best bakers, I plan to use them for the official opening of my fall kitchen. Apple fritters are on the menu. While not to everyone’s liking, fritters, for me anyway, are a treasured memory of things past. I am six years old and one of the big kids now. The first day of school finds me with new shoes, a pencil box whose contents took hours to to select and a plate of apple fritters, a special treat to mark the end of my first day in “real” school. I can still smell the shoe leather, feel the heft of that pencil box and get lost in the fragrance of those fritters as they bubbled and hissed in the fryer. Those I make today will never taste as good as those still warm and fresh in my memory.
So, we start with fritters, but the fall kitchen is also awash in the aromas of thick soups and stews that will stick to your ribs, whether you want them to or not. Come to think of it, you are lucky if all they stick to is your ribs. There’s also bread rising on counters and the scent of yeast vies with the spices of apple and pumpkin pie for aromatic dominance. Cookies, thick and chunky dunkers, are stored for snacks and as the holidays approach, there is the unmistakable aroma of turkey added to the spicy fragrance of the kitchen. Fall is my favorite season in the kitchen. I love its celebrations of nature’s bounty and a table that groans under the weight of my labors. For many, spring is the season of renewal, but my blood quickens with the cooler weather and I have near boundless energy, so I would have to disagree. We may be in for warmer days, but this first leaf drop has renewed my interest in the kitchen. I can’t wait for the soothing fragrance of those warm spices wafting through the house. I think I’ll ignore the calendar and get started now. This is my September song.