In the US, we call fall “fall.” It is the falling of the leaves from the trees that has earned the transitional period its aptly literal name. The act of trees losing their leaves makes the season one of loss in nature.
As I walk along the path by my house, I marvel at how nature uses its losses. The now falling leaves become part of the earth and bring the new growth of spring. Unharvested produce, heavy in maturity, will fall to the ground and resow. Squirrels and birds are busy stowing away fallen nuts and seeds to feed themselves through the winter.
As it turns out, we humans often use the months between summer and winter as a time to mark losses as well. Cultural holidays and beliefs surrounding mourning often have ties to fall. In Chinese medicine, autumn is considered a time of mourning. Religious celebrations from a spectrum of faiths provide opportunities to honor and remember the lost. Obon, Dia de los Muertos, and All Souls’ Day are holidays that focus on remembering our departed ancestors and friends.
The traditions of these celebrations vary, but they share the view that mourning should not be something we want to leave behind. Rather, we carry grief with us and often watch it unfold throughout our lives. Our losses can take root within us. They can be a crucial aspect of our daily lives and our future. My grief can sometimes bring joy to my day as I feel my departed family and friends come alive in the life I live and the food I enjoy.
Eating is a powerful way for me to feel nurtured by those I’ve lost. Recipes can lovingly connect my present with my past and allow me to share aspects of the lost with new friends and family.
I’m a big fan of serving pasta and pizza in the fall. Both serve as fabulous canvases for the seasonal produce. And both can be paired with my two favorite fall wines – pinot noir and rosé.
Pinot Noir is a true hero of food and wine pairing. The red scented wine, which is often spiced after baking, goes just as well with vegetable dishes such as mushroom ragout on polenta as it does with braised or roasted meat and is always welcome at my autumn table.
While we often think of rosé as a summer drink, dry versions of the wine pair perfectly with the many flavors of fall, including the wide array of condiments represented at the Thanksgiving table.
Fall is also a season of really exciting products. Glorious pumpkins, nutty cauliflower, sweet raspberries and earthy Brussels sprouts are at their freshest this time of year. Community-supported farming or a subscription for in-season produce delivery makes sourcing the best ingredients easier.
Of the many options out there, I’m a fan of Jeannie Girl (jeannie-girl.com). What sets Jeannie’s business apart is her focus on the power of food to heal and maintain good health. She personally takes care of every weekly box. She works directly with farmers, tracking the growing season of her produce and sourcing it from farms across California. I’ve learned a few new fruits and vegetables, including the kabocha squash, which stars in my carbonara recipe below.
Kabocha Squash Carbonara
My mom, a fabulous home cook, made the most incredible pasta carbonara. My version pays homage to them with a lot of autumnal flair. I’m sure she would love it, although she might suggest I add some more black pepper. This pasta dish is loaded with salty, sweet, tangy and fresh flavors that are made even more delightful with a glass of Sonoma County Pinot Noir.
• 1 to 2 pounds kabocha squash, peeled and seeded
• 1/8 teaspoon of paprika
• 3-4 whole sage leaves
• 5 slices thick-cut Canadian or Irish bacon
• 1 small yellow onion, diced
• 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
• 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti (reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water for the sauce)
Cut kabocha squash into 1/2-inch cubes. Place sliced pumpkin on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with nutmeg, paprika, salt and pepper and sprinkle with a few sage leaves.
Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the squash is tender and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside (this step can be done the day before).
In a large skillet, sear bacon, then remove bacon and set aside. Drain the fat from the pan. Place the pan back on the stove and add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Add chopped onion and sauté 5-7 minutes or until slightly translucent. Add chopped sage and cooked pumpkin and sauté briefly.
Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
While the pasta is cooking, return the bacon to the pan and ladle 1 cup of pasta cooking water over the bacon. Remove the pan from the stove. Drain noodles and add to pan. Add egg yolks, tossing to incorporate fully. Add cheese, herbs, salt, pepper.
Pizza was a staple of my mom’s. Many childhood friends make their dough and recreate their pizzas at their homes. This fact fills me with gratitude. At my house, we top her dough with Margherita pizza ingredients and pair it with a glass of rosé.
This year the food is even more reminiscent of my mum because we enjoy it with a special rosé. The 2021 Teac Mor Cuvée Joanne Rosé of Pinot Noir ($22) is a wine my family made in memory of our mother Joanne. Fresh and lively, with delicate floral aromas, lychee on the palate and intoxicating minerality, it pairs absolutely fabulously with pizza. Gets even better when you enjoy it while watching their team, the 49ers.
• 1 12” round pizza dough, store bought or homemade
• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 1/4 cup popular pizza sauce
• 3 ounces fresh mozzarella
• 6 basil leaves, roughly torn
• Red pepper flakes to taste
Preheat oven to 500 F (or as hot as your oven will go).
Roll out the dough, place on the pizza tray and brush with olive oil. Spoon the sauce over the dough. Sprinkle cheese and basil on top.
Cook for 10-12 minutes, keeping an eye on the pizza to check the doneness. Take out of the oven. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with paprika flakes if desired.
Christine Moore is a Mountain View resident. To read her blog visit writeyum.com where you can also find details about Cuvée Joanne and Teac Mor.