Those whom summer’s heat tortures yearn for the full moon of autumn
Without even fearing the idea that a hundred days of their life will then have passed forever
– Buddha Shakyamuni
Just near the Art Institute is a quarter block that looks almost vacant now, under snow. In summer and fall, it is filled with viney cucumbers and zucchini and summer squash, tomatoes, eggplant, scallions, lettuces and other summer greens. A few blocks away in the Baker neighborhood is another community garden, and along South Pearl Street there are many patches that, in summer, will feed families and neighbors.
It occurred to me that if we spend December dreaming about spring’s light and summer’s warmth, we will miss the amber lit windows, the scents and tastes that are winter — the ones we remember, the ones we build rituals and traditions around. Time enough for first strawberries and early baby carrots, cilantro and thyme.
We are focused on the sweets of the season: persimmon, kumquat and pomegranate; citrus, pear and apple. We all have our own rituals and food traditions — apples were a big deal for my mother and therefore for the whole tribe of us. But the world is a smaller, tighter-knit place, so we are going to explore sights and tastes that stretch us beyond the familiar.
Meanwhile, this is my Mom’s recipe for Sour Cream Apple Pie:
1 cup sour cream
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
3 medium eggs, slightly beaten
4 medium to large apples, cored and sliced thinly
1 – 9” pie shell
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
¼ cup flour
Whisk together all ingredients except apples. Spread sliced apples in pie shell. Pour custard mix over all. Process together topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over top of pie.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 40-45 minutes.
If your remembered winter flavors lean more toward the apple and cinnamon, try out this one from a valley near Turin, Italy, courtesy of Saveur — I’ve made it twice this year and it’s both pretty and delicious :