Autumn. It’s my favorite moment for cooking because it’s tricky. At least during September, it’s impossible to know what season it really is, as summer produce overlaps with that of fall. This year, autumn is more of a court jester than ever.
We’ve had every extreme of temperature in the past weeks, from storms, to searing sun, to pounding hail. The result is that I can as easily buy heirloom tomatoes from Baptiste, my favorite maraicher, as I can buy his winter butternut squash. At the market on Wednesday he had a few fat eggplant next to a bumper crop of Romanesco. Nearby, Rick Vanderhoot offered strawberries along with his notable apples. He seemed a little perplexed by the juxtaposition. “Our season this year isn’t normal,” he said, shaking his head. “We’re both early and late on everything!”
To the cook, this autumn is even more fun than most. We’ve got summer peaches and winter roots, we can make apple pies with strawberries. Sardines, denizens of the summer barbecue, share space with quivering oysters. Why, I just picked an armful of fat rhubarb stalks from my friend Edith’s garden – tomorrow, I’ll cooking it with muscat grapes and put it in a Linzer crust.
It makes for a lot of flavorful intensity, a silver lining on a change in climate and season.