I’ve always loved autumn, and when I moved to Austria, I fell in love with it even more. The changing of the seasons is visible everywhere there. The local restaurants begin to change their menus to represent the seasonal fare. My favorite restaurant in our town had something called Wild Woche or Wild Week in which they slow-roasted venison, wild boar, wild hare, all of which had been caught in our forest, and served them up in wonderful, hearty sauces, with earthy root vegetables, all meant to fatten the townspeople up, steeling us against the harsh winter that was sure to come.
But more than the beautiful colors, the comfort food, the inviting scents, there’s just something different in the air once autumn comes. I’ve always felt it, that magic electricity. It’s like in Mary Poppins when Burt sings “Winds in the East, mist comin’ in, like somethin’ is brewin’, about to begin!”
This past Sunday was the Autumnal Equinox, a time of equal light and equal darkness. The balance has tipped and we descend into darkness. This happens not only literally as the nights are now longer than the days, but for many people, it happens in a spiritual sense as well.
The bright warm days of summer, which beckon us outdoors to the beach, the mountains, or even just the backyard, are over. As the temperatures cool, we turn our focus inside, many of us decorating for fall and burning pumpkin-scented candles. Our tendency, when things get dark, it to turn on more light, to fill our already busy schedules with even more things.
But I invite you this autumn to take some time in the darkness, to sit quietly with your soul and take stock of what you have done this year. How have you grown? What seeds did you sow in the spring and tend in the summer that are now coming to harvest? How can you prepare yourself for the craziness that the holiday season can bring on?
Pull out your favorite snuggly sweater or blanket. Get some pumpkins to put on your front porch. Put some gourds on your mantle. Make some of your favorite comfort foods. And if you want a new favorite fall recipe, I’m sharing my very best one with you, A Kitchen Witch’s Pumpkin Spice Bread. And have a glorious autumn, everyone!
A Kitchen Witch’s Pumpkin Spice Bread
2 cups pureed pumpkin (fresh roasted or canned)
3 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable oil
3 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground cloves
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, water, vegetable oil, and eggs. Beat until well mixed. Measure flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and ground cloves into a separate bowl, and stir until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, beating until smooth.
Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans and dust with flour. Evenly divide the batter between the two pans. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool 10-15 minutes then remove from pans by inverting them onto a rack and tapping the bottoms. Slice and serve plain, buttered, or with cream cheese.