Fall is a special time of year for me, as it eases us collectively into a slower mode of hibernation and calm, quietly gathering around a fire with apple cider and a good story. And with that cool, crisp morning air comes culinary traditions that taste so good it seems a sin not to enjoy them repeatedly. My calorie gaining season is not the holidays; it’s Fall. I want all the candy corn, pumpkin spice muffins, and craft brew a girl can find to go with my fresh picked and dipped caramel apples. Beer and food festivals capitalize on the harvest season, releasing the smells of apple pies, butternut squash risotto, and barley into the air. We crave outdoor time, with camping not evoking images of salads, but rather of a crackling fire cooking brownies in a Dutch oven or frying bacon in a cast iron skillet. I have been lucky enough to spend this particular Fall driving around the Midwest, taking in all that this region has to offer, from its unique tastes to its cultural influences.
With waterfalls, wine regions, and north coast shoreline nestled in between small, quaint towns, the Great Lakes region can make for a stunning drive. Traveling here during Autumn is picturesque, as the colors create a landscape painter’s dream. My car coasts through the Midwest, cascading over the rolling hills and around curves, ducking in and out of taverns, ice age trails, and vegetable stands. The reds and yellows stream by me or land on my windshield. There is of course a cinnamon latte by my side, and Maggie Dog hangs her head out of the passenger window, grinning largely. Wherever I land my feet, there is always a Fall festival or open-air market to stroll through on the weekends, so I take my time, choosing to stop at a family owned “pick your own apples” orchard or a maple syrup stand in Ohio Amish country. I hopped onto a ferry to Kelley’s Island to see the famous glacier grooves. I made apple tarts with those apples I picked with a close friend at her family farm in Wisconsin, while eating grilled Wisconsin brick cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, made from the harvested vegetables from her garden. Red wine tastes so very good when paired with these moments with friends, and as the cool night air settles in it seems to encourage a hot toddy or a glass of whiskey to end the evening. We enjoy these moments, allowing time to slow, breathing in the scents that predict the snowy days that are soon to come.
For many, Thanksgiving symbolizes the start of the holiday season, but for me, it marks the end of Fall, as if the wind whispers “This isn’t goodbye… it’s see you later.” The final leafs drop to the ground as November comes to a close. Thanksgiving, or any holiday, on the road can have its ups and downs. This is the third one that I have spent away from my family, and I felt it more heavily this year than the others. Hubby, Maggie Dog, and I cuddled on the couch in our hotel room with coffee and pastries to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Smart phones make this distance easier, with many exchanged pictures and Facetime calls throughout the morning. The producers of hubby’s tour hosted a dinner for the company, and all that gathered were in high spirits. It is a unique moment to spend a holiday with those whom you work and travel. We serve as each other’s family right now, from comforting each other in hard times to breaking bread and celebrating during the good. Familiar smells of the harvest return and toasts are prepared. We eat turkey and speak of our gratitude for the support that we find around us. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; it is the day when many come together for no other reason than to eat good food, commune, and give thanks, choosing to share happiness and extend a moment of positivity and kindness. It is a beautifully simple concept.
After the company dinner, hubby and I went to the Grand Hall of the St. Louis Union Station, enjoying the already up holiday décor and projection shows that play on the restored ceiling. We raised a glass to happiness, love, and light. It eased the distance from extended family, but I still miss leftovers. Leftovers are so good.
A toast, with our favorite Colorado wine:
May your holiday season be filled with delicious food and tasty beverages.
May you find warm fires and friendly festivals to be jovial and commune with family.
And may gratitude infect our everyday lives throughout the year, no matter what season or day it may be.
Cheers! And happy meandering to you all.