"Just before the death of flowers, and before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season when nature is all aglow." ~ Anonymous
The author of this quote is unknown, but it is certain that this person was speaking of October. It is the month of harvest festivals throughout the northern hemisphere, with celebrations to toast the bounty and enjoy the colours of autumn before winter settles in and blows its cold winds.
I’ll bet you don’t know just how many things there are to celebrate in October. Thanksgiving and harvest are just the beginning. Whether it's turning over the new leaves of innovation or even just reminiscing on old traditions, there are many moments of celebration in the first month of autumn.
Here is just a smattering:
October is a great month for inventions and accomplishments. The Nobel Peace Prize is given out in October to recognize such momentous efforts.
Edison debuted the first incandescent light bulb went on the market, as did the first Ford Model T's (they sold for $825).
Moby Dick, For Whom The Bell Tolls, and Winnie the Pooh, published in the month of October.
Sputnik first launched in October 1957, and the space shuttle Atlantis made its first flight in 1985.
The first convening of the United Nations General Assembly happened in October.
On a lighter note, ‘Dr. No’, the first instalment of many James Bond movies, was released in 1962, and in 1969 the first episode of "Monty Python and the Flying Circus aired on BBC television.
This time of year has also not been good for the bad guys. Marie Antoinette was guillotined in Paris, Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion, and Bolivian revolutionary Che Guevera was executed. It was also the month the Taliban tried, but failed, to kill Malala Yousafzai.
One should be careful if investing in October, as it is the month of Black Monday, Black Tuesday, and Black Friday - all days the stock market crashed.
I couldn't go without mentioning the food of October. Interestingly enough, it's not the official turkey month, or pumpkin month, but it is apple month, and caramel month. A coincidence? I think not! Freshly harvested apples dunked in caramel certainly says ‘fall’ to me.
I understand that pretzels are celebrated as well. After all, what else would you want to go with your beer at Oktoberfest? And if you're not a beer fan, then you could try a pickled pepper, or some pork, or pizza, or pasta, or popcorn (how is it that almost every ‘official’ food of October starts with ‘p’, but they didn't include pumpkin?!)
In closing, I'll offer another quote. I don't expect I'll be on the next space shuttle, but I'd like to plan for many warm, cozy, happy, tasty moments this month.
“October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!” ~ from Rainbow Rowell's Attachments
As we approach the holiday season with all its meals, parties and treats galore, I thought it might be a good idea to get us prepared.
Being able to comfortably digest all those goodies helps in one's enjoyment of the event, so I am offering a few tried-and-true digestive aids this week. While the Tums commercials are cute, I thought some natural methods would be a better place to start. I hope they assist you in making the most of your holiday invitations.
First up is a treatment I have suggested before for other situations, as it is a good general health tip: Drink plenty of water daily. Your daily intake of water is the main source of replenishing your system's balance of fluids so that your muscles aren't fatigued, your skin stays toned, and your organs don't have to work too hard. It is also proven that choosing water over a high calorie snack will help you if you're working to keep your weight at a healthy point.
Next is one that I'm sure you've heard and may think applies more to older people: Eat your fiber. While eating prunes does qualify as adding to the fiber in your diet, this isn't something that's only good for Granny. Both soluble fiber (found in oats, legumes, apples, citrus fruits and flaxseed) and non-soluble fiber (whole grains, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale, and potatoes) are good for you. The fiber in these foods helps to keep things moving through your digestive system, and soluble fiber works to lower your cholesterol and control your blood glucose levels.
Keeping up the good bacteria in your system can help you fight the good fight as well. That's the benefit of eating fermented foods and probiotics. Yogurt with active bacteria cultures, foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and drinks like kombucha tea all provide healthy bacteria that help maintain a proper balance in your system. This will not only aid in proper digestion but also help to maintain your immune system, another important point for enjoying the holiday season.
Healthy herbs and plants are often discussed as remedies, and there are some very old-fashioned recommendations for helping digestion. Both ginger and mint have been used for all kinds of digestive ailments for centuries:
Chinese apothecaries have used ginger for centuries. Ginger, it seems, helps your body move food from your stomach further along into your intestinal tract. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to reduce pain in numerous studies. There is no need to take large doses either; the usual recommended daily dose is 1-2 grams. Ginger pills are even known to work relieve motion sickness and nausea.
Mint was first recognized by the Greeks for its medicinal and culinary properties. It can help to relax smooth muscles like those in our digestive system so it works fast to relieve a tummy ache. The essential oils in mint also help to prevent the growth of some bad bacteria, so it works to maintain that healthy balance we need.
Last, I want to mention a French tradition - the 'digestif'. You might think I am trying to rely on urban myths to make my case here, since I am a known fan of most things French and also a nice drink with a meal, but I assure you this method too has its proven benefits. A drink taken after a meal is called a 'digestif' in French; it is the other side of the 'aperitif', which comes before the meal. Traditional digestif drinks often contain herbal elements that are meant to aid digestion, and the time taken to relax and let your system work is also not a bad idea. Many countries have drinks in this style:
- Anise-based spirits such as Aguardiente from Columbia, Ouzo from Greece, Arak from Turkey, and Sambucca from Italy
- Aquavit from Scandinavia has caraway and dill
- Jagermeister from Germany contains ginger among its herbal ingredients
- Chartreuse from France comes in two varieties - green and yellow - one more spicy, the other more sweet; both contain herbal and spice ingredients
However you choose to enjoy your holiday season and all its indulgences, I wish you a healthy and happy end to another glorious year.
It is apple season, but that is not so much what I'm going to talk about this week. Rather, I thought it would be fun to look at some of those everyday expressions we use that involve food items. Some of the stories behind them are quite intriguing. And of course, some of them come out of nowhere. Food is such a big part of many moments in our lives, so it makes sense that food expressions would reflect our philosophy on life itself. Dare I say this is food for thought, or should I rather say you would do well to take this column with a grain of salt? (I think by now you see where I am going with this… )
I entitled this week’s column using that age-old phrase that has become the poster child for healthy living – and did you know that in Ancient Greece throwing an apple to a woman was a way to propose marriage? (If she caught it, it meant yes. That is one way you become the apple of someone’s eye…) When the expression about keeping doctors away became popular in the 19th century, they had no scientific way of knowing that apples were healthy but they saw the proof in the pudding. (Would that have been apple pudding, I wonder??) Bad apples made their way into expressions too, and I suppose you could argue that might have been due to Eve’s unfortunate experience but a more modern version seems to be the more obvious truth – spoiling a good effort only takes one small token, whether it is one apple in a barrel or one party pooper in a bunch of folks.
The apple expressions are ones that are used all the time, but with the approach of the holiday season the phrase “nuttier than a fruitcake” also came to mind... (please, no derogatory comments about fruitcake!) I thought the phrase was meant to ridicule the person, and since I am one of the very few people in the world who publicly claim to enjoy fruitcake, I took offense. Fruitcake does not even have that many nuts – maybe that is why we don’t call it nutcake! Just because something is not your cup of tea doesn’t mean it’s a recipe for disaster. Mind you, perhaps there was a crazy Christmas baker in history, for in the UK they have mincemeat, which is similar to fruitcake in its taste and ingredients and there if you say that someone is “as thick as mince” it also means they are not altogether there. (Or perhaps it was just partaking of the rum and/or brandy that the fruit soaked in that made them a bit out to lunch.)
Many idioms do seem to have a logical history to them, but there are others that seem to be more elusive. Why would we care who "brought home the bacon" – wouldn’t we rather know who was bringing home the pork roast? (It comes from a small town in England that offered a side of bacon to any man who hadn’t quarreled with his wife for a year and a day. Even then, that was something to be appreciated!) And when was the last time you tried to cut mustard? Well, if you had ever tried to cut down mustard stalks you would know how difficult it is, but if you have ever “cut” dried mustard with vinegar or water then you know too that there is a standard for getting a good final product. If it's not good enough, it makes sense to say it doesn't cut the mustard.
Aren’t you glad you know those things now?
In keeping with the fall season and the resurgence of comfort foods, I will finish with a phrase I found particularly intriguing: “Fine words butter no parsnips”. I looked up the background to this one and found that it dates back to 1639 when people often ate parsnips instead of potatoes. If you have tasted them before, you know that parsnips are a food that needs to be buttered (or otherwise glazed – alone, they are quite bitter). The phrase may contain the root of a broader idiom – “to butter someone up” – in that it means words are not the same as actions. You can butter someone up, but it does not necessarily mean you will convince them; only the real thing will do.
I hope this week’s column has allowed you to “go to bed less stupid” as Martin says; or to give you one more expression, you can now tell people that you didn’t just fall off a turnip truck!
It’s happened again. I wasn’t paying attention and it snuck up on me. Just when I was getting into the groove, too… You know what I mean, I am sure. I am talking about the ominous turn of the calendar page. It is September. Summer is over.
Even though I have put it down on the screen I still have not quite come to terms with it. Perhaps that is why I live in the Okanagan: I like to gradually wean myself off summer, let myself gently down from that intense season of being in the garden and on the deck or the beach at any hour of the day. This month I am still stubborn about sitting outside in the evening (I will rub my arms but I will NOT put on a sweater yet), and I am determined that the elements in the garden that are not fully harvested or (can you believe it?!) not ripe will manage to fulfill their destiny as I planned all along. In Septembers such as this, it all seems possible. I am so thankful we live in such a paradise.
Nevertheless, you do have to shift gears when that calendar page turns. Martin and I don’t have kids to send back to school, but we still see them. All of a sudden they come back out of the woodwork, it seems, and into daily routines again. I will be with the Girl Guides again next week, and I am seeing the neighbourhood kids back at their regular chores already, taking out the garbage and walking the dog. Their summer passes have been handed in and they are once again indentured into the routines created by parents and teachers (at least that is the way I remember feeling when I was a kid.) Even as an adult, don’t you get that melancholy feeling when September arrives that the frivolity is over and it’s time to get back to the serious part of life? If you are fortunate enough to still have that spark of childhood in you, then that urge is tempered by the wistful autumn breeze, and before you know it you are aimlessly strolling through a field or orchard (maybe with your dogs?), enjoying the golden light of the waning sun and the fruit still on the trees, like the last stars before dawn.
September is the month when we stop drinking from the garden hose during garden chores, and we go back to having a cup of tea in the evening. On the bright side though, it is a chance to enjoy the transition of the seasons before we actually have to embrace the new one coming. I propose that we celebrate the end of summer before we start to concentrate on fall. Thanks to the heat Mother Nature has offered up this year, we can manage to cram in one more picnic or walk on the beach and there are still enormous peaches and plums left to bite into at the farmers’ market (the kind that are so juicy it runs down your arm). We can save those comfort foods like squash and apples for October, when it really will be fall.
I hope you can soak in the last vestiges of summer before that Solstice brings us into autumn. The fair is on in Armstrong – have a mini donut and see the 4H winners. Or maybe you just need to stop for ice cream and sit next to the fruit trees as that golden light hits them. It will make you remember all those days at the beach and the wonderful BBQ’s…
Read more Happy Gourmand articles
- Feeding the horde Aug 29
- The Okanagan at its finest! Aug 22
- Times they are a-changing Aug 15
- I am...happy Aug 8
- Gad-zukes! Aug 1
- What makes it all go round Jul 25
- Be bop, blues and breakfast Jul 18
- Tastes of summer Jul 11
- As Canadian as... Jun 27
- Daddy's princess Jun 20
- Here comes the sun Jun 13
- Food trivia tidbits Jun 6
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