Posted by: acooksca | 04/02/2009

Autumn’s Primal Urge for Food

Autumn emerges and I get this primal urge to collect food. More food then we can reasonably eat before I feel the phipps-farm-2aneed to collect more. Why is this?

Early in life we lived in rural Fresno, when everyone had an acre surrounding their home for a garden. But I’ve never really been involved in “the harvest season.” Nor have I lived far enough from a grocery store to know the imperative of canning and freezing the bounty of summer in order to make it through the winter. Yet I can’t ignore this directive from my inner hunter-gatherer to make Autumn one big food event.

My mother learned from her mother to can “chili sauce” in October. We would start with bushels (okay…. paper grocery bags, I don’t know what a bushel is) of ripe tomatoes. We needed green bell pepper, onions, salt, sugar, sweet spices and vinegar.

The pots simmered for four hours, reducing into a sweet-tart condiment. An entire Saturday was absorbed by dicing, cooking, sterilizing jars and canning in an aromatic haze. Chili sauce was essential to accompany well cooked meat. It also was the key between a bland Beef Stroganoff and an often-requested tangy-sweet-spiced-egg-noodle-heaven.

My husband, Bruce, claims he has no increased food urges brought on by this season. Born in North Beach San Francisco, he remembers his Italian grandmother’s garden of tomatoes, basil, zucchini and beans. She produced enough to sell to the grocery on the corner of Columbus Avenue. To Bruce, Autumn means the best weather in San Francisco, a time for walks along The Bay interrupted by an espresso or dim sum.

We were recently given a bag of tiny Seckel pears by a close friend of ours, Joyce Haven, who lives in Walnut Creek. She has been gleaning pears from a neighbor’s tree for 30 years. Who cares if that neighbor sold and moved? Gathering these pears each Autumn was a primal urge with a personal history. At nearly 80 years old, Joyce gathered fewer then she might have before, but that could be because now she had to jump the fence with bags full of fruit.

These diminutive pears sparked the remembrance of a recipe I had hand-copied years before. I had never made this recipe for Whole Fruit Pickled in Merlot, but here was a bag of perfectly sized fruit. In my cupboard I happened to have two canning jars, just large enough for eight of these pears. So I set about happily canning two jars and obeying my primal urge. … if only in a very small way.

Recipe for Pears:…ine-and-spicespears-pickled-in-red-wine-and-spices/


Originally published in Farmstead Cheese News by Karen Bolla, edited for A Cook’s California (A Cook’s CA)  by Karen Bolla.


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