Like the fog which has settled in Chimacum valley the last few weeks, I’m settling into fall at last, grateful for a steaming cup of lemon ginger tea by the fire, even if the days are ending sooner than I’d like. For the last month, I’ve been too busy to embrace fall, and when I’m too busy I find that resistance is my default: “Oh, if only the fog would lift” or “I wish I could go for one more hike up to Lena Lake.” October was full with teaching, conferences, readings, family visiting. But now I’m home at last, with time to make soup, clean the house, put the garden to bed, rest and catch up with the self who’s been racing—not as mindfully as she would like—from one event to the next.
This isn’t a surprise; I know my resistance to fall is as predictable as salmon returning to their home streams. And it’s not that I don’t love fall, it’s that rituals of summer—swimming, hiking, gardening—seem to vanish too quickly, leaving me feeling adrift. For me, it’s fall foods that help ground me: harvesting the last beets to roast, cooking squash and pumpkin for soups, making risotto.
According to the Ayervedic tradition, the food we prepare should reflect the changes we see in the outer world. Farewell to summer salads and chilled soup; instead, we instinctively turn toward warming, spicy foods, like winter squash stew and cassoulet. (See the recipe for Thai Tofu and Winter Squash Stew below.)
So today I’ll finally put away my beach towel and swim fins, coil the soaker hoses, sow a cover crop in the bed recently vacated by the tomatoes, and make winter squash soup. Later, I’ll choose a book from the tall stack by my bed and settle down in front of the fire with tea, grateful for quiet time to read, reflect, turn inward, easing my inner life into alignment with the rhythm of fall at last.
This week, I hope you’ll join me in taking a few moments to consciously bring our outer and inner worlds into alignment. What foods help you embrace the fall? How are you allowing your body—like the earth—to lie fallow, turn inward and renew itself? Please write about the rituals you use to embrace fall and share them with us here.
Yours in gratitude—at last—for the season of soup,
Thai Tofu and Winter Squash Stew
Serves 3 – 4
2-3 medium leeks, white parts only
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 serrano chilies, minced
1 Tbsp. finely chopped ginger
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 15 oz. can coconut milk
1 ½ lbs. butternut squash, peeled and diced into ½ “ cubes
1 tsp. salt
1 10 oz. package silken firm tofu, cut into ½ “ cubes
juice of 1 lime
1/3 c. raw peanuts
¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro
Halve the leeks lengthwise, cut crosswise into ¼” pieces. Wash, then drain.
Heat the peanut oil in a wide soup pot. Add the leeks and cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until partially softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, most of the chiles, and ginger, cook 1 minute more, then add the curry, sugar and soy sauce. Reduce the heat to medium, scrape the pan and cook for a few more minutes.
Add 3 cups water, coconut milk, squash and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
Add the tofu, fried or raw, to the stew once the squash is almost tender, then simmer until it’s done. Taste for salt and add the lime juice. Fry the peanuts in a few drops of peanut oil over medium heat until browned, then chop. Serve the stew over rice with cilantro, peanuts and remaining chile scattered on top.