FOOD: Summer Food Gifts and Fall Homework

September 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Falls Church Times Staff
September 16, 2011


Now that summer vacation is over and fall is in full swing, I am reminded of the essay we were asked to write the first day back to school: what did you do over your summer vacation? I remember being in a daze and struggling for what to share, let alone what I had learned.

My summer food adventures were interesting as we continued to explore and appreciate local, seasonal food. We are fortunate that local seasonal food is now more the norm.  With a stop in Montreal, eating locally and seasonally took a new twist as the French truly know how to eat. Yet, I don’t know French that well and I ended up tasting some new items.  Beef cheeks were on many menus and I ended up eating them a lot because of my poor understanding of French. I really enjoyed them as they tasted much like pot roast or short rib and was always served with a wonderful sauce.

But besides being introduced to new parts of the cow, I came to realize that there were three food lessons I learned to really appreciate over the summer:

The best salad: One of the pleasures of summer is the ready to eat vegetables and fruit. Most don’t need anything other than a simple wash. A squeeze of lime on watermelon, and it is ready to go. Slice a few tomatoes, add mozzarella and a sprig of basil- lunch is served. For our home, a Lebanese inspired salad is a staple that we can enjoy through early fall.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and mint tossed with olive oil, apple cider vinegar with salt and pepper. The salad can be made days in advance and keeps in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

The best way to eat: A meal is an event in most cultures and our French Canadians friends reminded us of this. Dinner took three hours at best. Each course was just enough food to savor the taste but not to fill up. There was time between courses to visit with friends and sip wine. No rushing , no texting. The French believe that the meal is appreciated for its gastronomic appeal, not its calorie counting. Our family learned to further enjoy our meals rather than look at them as sustenance.

The best gift: Over the last year, we have expended considerable resources to expanding our home food production. Apricots, peaches, pears, figs, kiwis, melons and corn complement the greens, tomatoes, peppers, and root vegetables. We were wiped out. Apricots and peaches were decimated by an insect; pears and kiwis were gobbled up by squirrels and like many of us anything that was within 24 inches of the ground were destroyed in one fashion or another by “creatures” of various species.  What was left was scorched by the high heat in mid-July. We learned a new appreciation for the food brought to the market by farmers by knowing firsthand the trials and tribulations of food production.

With the fall equinox next week, we will see changes in the local produce and many new items on local restaurant menus.  We will herald root vegetables, squashes and cool greens. Not only can we enjoy these items in the market, many like kale and chard can still be planted in the garden and harvested throughout the fall into the winter. Kale loves cold weather and even tastes sweeter after it has been touched by frost. Kale will also withstand snow and you can harvest it until March.

My homework this fall season is to learn more recipes with butternut squash as this seems to be the only thing that survived in our garden besides potatoes and pumpkins. I look forward to trying this recipe for Butternut Squash Lasagna or finding a new Butternut Squash soup recipe.

Remember the Taste of Falls Church is this Saturday, September 17th from 10am to 4pm.