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It isnít autumn without Ďem
September 22, 2004

The falling leaves drift by my window

The autumn leaves of red and gold

†††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Johnny Mercer

 

Sometime tomorrow, if I donít do it first, my sister will call me and ask what I did today.Only she wonít have to wait for an answer.She already will know that Iíve hung the Indian corn and autumn leaves (fake, for me, unfortunately) on the front door.

Why do I do it?

How will she know?

Because today, just about a half hour after noon, we will mark the Autumnal Equinox, the day of equal light and dark.††

That makes it the first day of fall, and on the first day of fall our mother always hung Indian corn and autumn leaves on the front door.She didnít stop there.She stacked pumpkins across the front steps and replaced the red geranium in the unsteady black iron bean pot by the back door with a yellow chrysanthemum.Only then did she go into the house to make apple crisp.

We may still be experiencing hot South Georgia, but itís fall. Soon weíll see cooler days, along with pumpkins, those traditional harbingers of harvest appearing by the First Methodist Church, and on the Square over in Blakely.Those of us who live close enough (if we arenít in the stadium ourselves) will hear the roar of the crowd and the boom of the band as the Bearcats roll to another victory.And, yes, (I hate it) the Halloween costumes already festoon the racks in the stores.Definitely, itís fall.

But you might wonder, as I have, whywe call it fall when most of the leaves are still tightly attached to their trees.(That is if you donít count falling pine straw!)The term doesnít refer to Mr. Mercerís falling leaves, but rather to the sun.On this Equinox day the sun is directly over the equator. Tomorrow, and the next day, and the next it will†† faller lower and lower.Every day until the Winter Solstice in December.†† An important day, this change of seasons.

††††††††††† While Nan and I are hanging our Indian corn and whipping up an apple dessert, the Anasazi Indians over in the Chaco Canyon in New Mexico†† will be gathering to watch the sun pierce the darkness between boulders casting a ďsun daggerĒ across a carefully drawn spiral on the canyon wall.†† Meanwhile, deep in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, a beam of sun will slither serpent-like down the north side of the Chichen Itza pyramid.

††††††††††† Not only in the New World do folks observe this important moment, many Japanese will have the day off from work so that they can go to visit and decorate the graves of their relatives on the national holiday called Ohigan.Across Europe, there are fall festivals in almost every countryóin Poland it is the feast of greenery.In England they go all out with Harvest Home celebrationsóthe last ear of harvested corn is fashioned into a doll who is serenaded with melody and feted with dance.†† In the old days, and occasionally even yet today, the horse pulling in the last cartful of corn is garlanded with ropes of flowers. Lucky dobbin! In this time, itís the day of many church festivals.In the old times, celebrations focused on the Green Man and the transformation of the Earth Mother into the Crone.

††††††††††† My favorite of the old celebrations, though, happened in the ancient Roman Empire, when at the Equinox, the citizens feted the Goddess (or possibly wood nymph) Pomona, she of the fruits and vegetables.Dressed in flowing robes, she generally wears a crown of fruit and often carries an overflowing cornucopia dripping with the fruits of the harvest.

††††††††††† Pomona is the patroness of all fruits and vegetables, but most especially the apple.Maybe thatís why I prefer heróshe makes me think of the first day of fall, the Indian corn and my motherís apple crisp.

††††††††††† So, to inaugurate autumn and to honor Pomona and Dorothy, here are some goodapple treats.

Dorothyís apple crisp

5 apples

2/3 cup light brown sugar

6 tablespoons butter

1 cup oatmeal (any kind)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

(or substitute apple pie spices)

2 tablespoons apple, orange or lemon juice (or water)

Lightly butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan or equal capacity casserole.Peel, core and slice the apples and place them in the pan.With an electric mixer or food processor blend the oatmeal, sugar, flour, salt and spices to a coarse meal.Crumble evenly over the apples and sprinkle with the juice.Bake for 35 minutes at 375 degrees.

††††††††††† Itís good with whipped cream (add a little cinnamon) or ice cream.†† It makes a tasty breakfast too.

††††††††††† You may want to wait for the first crispy fall gardening day to try this warmer-upper.†† It would be good after a Bearcat victory as well.

Pomonaís spicy apple cider

1 gallon top-quality apple cider (fresh is especially good)

4 small cinnamon sticks

15 whole cloves

††††††††††† Combine together in a slow cooker set on high.When the cider is hot, turn the cooker to low.This will be good all day, or evening, until it is all gone.Which wonít be long!

††††††††††† I wish my grandkids were here this fall.Instead of their great-grandmotherís apple crisp, Iíd make them my favorite.

Classic caramel apples

1 package individually wrapped caramels (48)

2 tablespoons water

6 small apples, de-stemmed and well-washed

6 frozen dessert sticks

††††††††††† Combine caramels and water and melt in a double boiler or a microwave on a low setting.If you use the microwave, check them often.Meanwhile, place one stick in the stem-end of each apple.When the caramels have a runny consistency, dip in the apples until they are completely covered with caramel.You make need to stop and reheat.†† Place the dipped apples (stick up) on waxed paper and cool until the caramel hardens.

††††††††††† After allóit isnít autumn without Ďem!††


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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network