Food for Thought: Fall fantasy

Food for Thought Fall f

automn 248.88 (photo credit: ilana epstein )
automn 248.88
(photo credit: ilana epstein )
This winter, we will be celebrating our 12th year in Israel. As much as I love my adopted home, there are several things I will always miss, no matter the distance or passage of time. I will always miss Sundays, that true lazy day every single week. Just rolling out of bed with no one to rush out the door, no lunches to pack, no backpacks to fill. Just The New York Times to be pored over at your leisure while shmearing something on a fresh bagel. Then the mid-morning break for ice skating in Flushing Meadow Park or a visit to my grandmother or aunt and uncle. And then a Sunday dinner, eaten early with friends and family, who came over for the afternoon. No pressure, just chatting, relaxing, eating and griping about the week ahead. I miss customer service. And I really miss fall. The crisp sunny days, the chilly nights, the leaves turning shades of autumn, apple-picking drives upstate to visit the trees (who said New Yorkers aren't environmentalists?). And most of all, I miss fall food! What a comfort: sugar and spice and everything nice. Though the line refers to what little girls are made of, I find it fitting for fall food. Crisps and crumbles, pies and soups, bounty from trees and harvest from the fields, all packaged in warmth and carbohydrates. There can be nothing more comforting. What can beat warm food on a cold day? Not a freezing day when you need the warmth for survival, but rather on a cool day where the warmth from the food can be enjoyed for its nourishing comfort. Is there a greater joy than sipping a spiced hot chocolate while watching amber leaves fall gracefully from an obliging tree? As long as we have been in Israel, I can't remember experiencing fall. Slips and falls, yes, but the fall season was as elusive as the tumbles were painful. That is, until this year. In previous years, I would stare down at my sandals, then up at the calendar in frustration and confusion, thinking that November couldn't possibly be ushered in while I was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt but knowing that adding a single item of clothing more would lead to dehydration and overheating. But since our move to Efrat in August, things have been different. We moved to the mountains where it's normal to be cold in the morning and freezing at night while hiding from the sun at midday; where you need to be careful about which way you face when the wind is blowing in, lest you be knocked down. More humiliating than painful but, nonetheless, you need to be aware of the weather around here; not for the heat as much as for the cold. And then yesterday, during a walk around the neighborhood, during which I had to wear a jacket and socks (oh joy!), I came across a great surprise. Leaves had not only fallen, but a number of homes have beautiful vines crawling along their walls, turning a magnificent shade of ruby. Ruby leaves in Israel: What a revelation that fall can exist outside the US. And then, as if on cue, I was certain fall had arrived because I was laid up in bed with what I had forgotten existed - the fall cold - sipping tea and feeling sorry for myself. This proves it. Israel really does have everything, though customer service still remains elusive. We live in hope. Readers, I feel for you. Not everyone lives in the same mountainous haven I do. Perhaps you are shvitzing into your scarf and gloves. But, sunshine be damned, the calendar says November, and by all that is cold in this world, you will not be denied pulling out your winter wardrobe. So I command you (and have a few useful tips) to usher in the crispest of seasons. First, turn on the air conditioning. Let's see who's laughing now as you pull out the hat with the ear flaps and the pompom. Next, buy some spray paint. Nothing is more effective than turning green leaves all shades of brown yellow, red and some purple for good measure. Now make the kids rake up the leaves. You had to do it as a kid, so should they! Next, pull out some cookbooks and start cooking, baking and roasting all your favorite fall treats. Whatever you do to commemorate fall, don't let the season, however brief, pass you by. Enjoy the small changes in the weather, in the foliage and in the produce section in the market. As much as I love it here and as much as I miss where I came from, one thing resonates: I am grateful for everything that I have, even if it's as simple as appreciating the change of season.