Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fall Not In New England

I'm from Connecticut. I say that and people think:

Admit it. You read "Connecticut" and thought: mansions, autumn, an image of the society perhaps drawn from a 1940's film starring America's favorite crooner, Bing Crosby.

When I tell people, especially out here in California where few of my brethren live, I can see those exact images pop into their heads. Being from there is funny, because when I think Connecticut, I think:

New Haven-style pizza, especially Frank Pepe's exceptional pie, and the colorful Sicilian community in my hometown, where I actually went to junior high with a kid named "Sebby Italia." And in some ancient lizard part of my brain, there's still that imprint of autumn in New England, despite my distinct memories of clogged sewers and slippery roads.

So San Francisco autumn is, frankly, a disappointment. Fall is less a season than a bellwether of winter, when rain charges across the Golden Gate and spreads across the sky in a suffocating gray pillow that soaks us from December through April.

One recent year--was it 2007 or 2006?--it rained every single day in March. You try: you buy knee-high rubber boots in pink, think of finding a sturdy parasol when next in London, book a weekend in Mexico as a last gasp.

In October you see the faces of people on the street, and you think: it's coming. You do not think of leaves, harvest pies, that hollow weight and prickly smell of pumpkins in a field. But you know what we've got on you, New England? This:

It is still 70 degrees, warm enough to wear only a scarf to the market at 7 a.m. Autumn fruits and vegetables are fantastic: fresh almonds, weird squashes, misty cardoons. We never had to invent something so morally repulsive (and secretly delicious) as gelatinous canned cranberry sauce.

This time around: persimmons. If you've seen them before, you may be more familiar with the squat, pumpkin-shaped fuyu variety. When ripe, the hachiya melts into a custardy texture that seems interesting to cook.

We'll see when they ripen later this week...


Gloucester1 said...

Autumn in San Francisco is my favourite season, as the light shifts angles and lowers to an intimate level of illumination, even the undersides of leaves glow in their oranges and reds. It's subtle sometimes, but a walk in the California Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park will thrill the seasonally-deprived. The warm days tend to be less frequent after October and though there is mildness in the days, the nights bring on frost. Pizzeria windows steam as they do in the east. Sweaters and jackets gloves and scarves come out for strolls with chilled people. Later, yes we hope for rains. February is always a respite, with the plum blossoms of that secret street in San Francisco always in full bloom on Valentines Day, and the return of great warm days beg for languorous encounters under the drifting petals. And the rains are especially heavy in February, too. You've found the autumn fruit -- the persimmons -- which when baked as bread feed my love of autumn here. Further afield, the grape vines singe the eye with color and here and there mists hang near the ground vermillion-daubed trees in their gorgeous death masks before being reborn.

Jen said...

So funny - I'm an ex-New Yorker, now living in California. People are always surprised to find out I used to live in the Big Apple: "But you're so nice!"

...I've decided to take it as a compliment.


FeelinYummy said...

I'm from Mystic, CT and I've moved away twice, and both times I scurried my Yankee hiney right back home! I tried Manhatten for about two years and before that I moved to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for a while. Now, I'm not knocking either place, as they are both equally wonderful in their own way. But when autumn came around I became deathly ill with homesickness! There's nothing like the feeling of the crisp air on your cheeks and the sound of the leaves crunching under your feet! Oh, and the first really chilly day you smell that wonderful aroma of a fireplace warming someone's home and you look up & see the smoke rising from the chimney! I'd love to visit SF and a million other places, but I will always - always come back home!