My family is slowly settling into our new home and new rhythm in central New York state. After living in Florida for many years where summer lingers on until around November, I am relishing the story book fall season here in New York. The change in the leaves; the flocks of birds picking over the fields; apples and cider and doughnuts; the harbingers of the winter to come bring back a flood of memories from my childhood. I remember the utter delight in tromping through piles of leaves almost as tall as I was, the smell of those leaves is still fresh in my mind over 30 years later. Every day, on our way home from school, my sister and I would stop under a huge horse chestnut tree and stuff our pockets full of the shiny, gorgeous horse chestnuts. I remember wishing that all my furniture could be made of horse chestnuts, I couldn't imagine anything more beautiful. The maple leaves were so colorful, I would gather as many as I could hold in my little hands and cary them home. It was so disappointing how quickly they would dry out and shrivel up. My sister and I would pick up bent sticks and push them along the sidewalks where they would bounce along, these were our "dogs" we were walking. I wonder whether my own children, even with all my conscious parenting, get to experience the changing of the season as freely as my sister and I did walking home from public school.
Now for the first time I am experiencing a New York fall as a mother. I'm feeling the need to get things settled and ordered before winter comes. I'm focusing on bringing more warmth and rhythm into our home after the long out-breath of summertime. It is a challenge to dress the children properly I find, the damp cold of early morning can turn into warm sunshine before noon or a day that starts out mild, can become bitter and windy. I insist on lots of layers and then it is tricky to keep track as the layers get pulled off and left here and there. I have a lot of running around to do and I find myself resentful of this, wanting to stay home and make soup and get on with some knitting. There is a feeling now of getting in our last licks of the sun and slowly turning inward. The children are busy outdoors with a shelter they have built from some dead tree limbs and with playing "Swallows and Amazons" with a canoe and a pond instead of a sailboat on a lake. I want them to enjoy these last sunny afternoons before the dark arrives. Daylight savings time is coming, the turning back of the clock. We'll be indoors more and going to bed earlier. We have started taking cod liver oil now knowing that we are getting less and less sunlight to fortify us with vitamin D. My dinner planning is turning more to soups and stews and roasts, anything that feels warm and nourishing to me.
Here is a simple soup we love to make at this time of year (inspired by the recipe in the book Mothers and Daughters at Home by Charlotte Lyons):
Sopa de Lima
1 Whole Organic Chicken
2 Large Onions
1 Large can of whole organic tomatoes
1 bunch cilantro
1-2 cups raw cheddar cheese
1 bag blue corn chips
In the morning, rinse the chicken off and put in a large stock pot and cover with cold water.
Add the sliced onions
Throw in some pepper, salt and a tablespoon or two of vinegar (I use red wine vinegar)
Boil until the chicken is falling off the bone (about 3 hours).
Turn off the pot and let it cool on the stove.
After lunch, remove the chicken from the broth and pick the chicken meat off the bones (the children love to do this with you)
About an hour before you want to eat dinner, start to heat up the broth in the pot.
Add the chicken meat back into the pot.
Add the whole canned tomatoes one by one squishing them with your fingers (the children enjoy this part too).
Half an hour before serving, chop the cilantro and add that to the pot.
Prepare the toppings, one bowl of lime wedges, one of grated cheddar cheese and a basket of corn chips.
Serve the soup in large soup bowls and let the children add their own toppings (they love to crush the chips onto the soup and squeeze the lime wedges).