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Fall and the simple pleasures

Image: PV Bella

The older I get, the more I look back. Sometimes the memory flood is overwhelming. A lot of those memories are food-related, from simple pleasures to fabulous home-cooked feasts. Fall brings more nostalgia than usual. Produce was more seasonal, so we looked forward to certain fruit and vegetable treats. 

Yesterday, we made a simple dish, sausage, and peppers, three ingredients, including great bread. There was a rich chocolate cake for dessert.

On this cool sunny Sunday morning, my first thought was that sausage and peppers I ate yesterday. Eating outdoors, watching the squirrels gambol, and hunt for winter food. Listening to the sounds of the city.

My dad made sausage every fall, so most of the meals with sausage were from the ones he made. Other times, he would buy sausage from people who knew how to make it the right way, old school, with just the right seasonings. Back then, there were no red, orange, or yellow peppers, just green.

I remember the summer barbecues. My dad grilling lemon garlic chicken or ribs. Sometimes there were hot dogs or burgers. My mother made potato salad. On a hot humid day or two later, that cold leftover potato salad was a meal in itself.

Sometimes, my dad and I would sit at the table with Italian cured meats, cheese, olives, homemade bread from a neighbor, and wine. We would sit and talk. Two men, one aging and one younger adult. He would talk about the past. I would talk about the present.

Food was always part of my life. I grew up in a food-loving family. My parents loved to cook, and that love showed in their craft. Even a simple pot of chicken soup was made with love.

I think about all the holiday dinners I prepared or helped prepare. A month before, I would scour the food magazines looking for recipes. There was the calvados pork roast, the leg of lamb wet rub marinated with pesto, the varnished turkey, geese one Christmas, plum duck, ginger ham, stuffed trout, and the various side dishes to go with them.

Fall is when I really think about food, past, and present. Fall through winter is the time for comfort foods. Foods that mend your heart and heal your soul. Foods that take you away from the junkyard world we live in. Meals to enjoy alone or in the company of others.

Our lives are complicated. We get too wrapped up in all the political and social rhetorical wars swirling around us. The pandemic is still stubbornly around. We forget the simple pleasures of life, good food, maybe wine, and the companionship of family or friends.

The pandemic brought out the best of us in relation to food. People were home with too much time on their hands. First, it was the bread bakers. Then sourdough took over. All of a sudden social media was flooded with home-cooked food. People discovered what that strange place in their homes, the kitchen, was for.

Fall is here. The days are getting shorter. The weather is cooling down. Soon, sunny days will be few and far between. I think about food, comfort food. As much as I love to eat out, I love to cook or eat home-cooked meals.

Now that many of you found uses for your kitchens scrap the delivery or carryout. Stay home and cook. Cooking and sharing food is one of the purest forms of love. Cook the simple, comforting foods, soups, stews, meatloaf, chili, or roast a chicken. There are plenty of places to get a few other necessities, like good bread or other food items.

Go into the kitchen, turn on your favorite music, and forget the outside world. Cook. Cook for yourself. Cook for family or friends. Keep it simple and comforting.

I ate in some of the finest restaurants in Chicago. I enjoyed the food. But nothing ever beats a simple, comforting home-cooked meal made with love and shared with others.

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