Wednesday, November 19, 2008
AUTUMN AND OATMEAL COOKIES
There’s something about a cold November day that whispers to my inner child how this would a perfect occasion for baking oatmeal cookies. Not that there’s actually a bad day for oatmeal cookie baking, mind you. But you know what I mean.…certain foods seem particularly well suited to particular times. Never one to stand in the way of gastronomical/seasonal destiny, I complied. To the tune of several dozen cookies, made with old-fashioned rolled oats, brown sugar, butter and vegetable shortening, baking soda, salt, vanilla, a dash of cinnamon, and unbleached flour. I figured if the food police came around, I’d buy them off with a really good cookie. Between shuffling batches of cookies in and out of the oven, I kept an eye outdoors—at the river, the mallards feeding in the riffle, a red-tailed hawk loafing in one of the big sycamores on the island across from the cottage, at birds visiting the feeder and squirrels scrabbling through the leaves and chasing about in the yard. When the final batch of cookies was done and set out to cool, I poured a glass of real cider from the orchard up the road, and sat at the table by window in the front room, where I ate more oatmeal cookies than I care to admit, and watched the sun slip behind the low hill to the west across the river. Late-autumn, it seems to me, is a necessary interregnum between that first half of the season—which can almost seem like an extension of late-summer except with colored leaves—and genuine winter, when stars hover close and trees creak and pop with the deep cold. The last half of November helps us begin to get in the mood for things ahead. We humans need this—or at least I do. Maybe it keeps my circadian rhythm in proper alignment or something. Or maybe it just gives me time hunker low and brace for winter. Whatever, I’ve come to think of it the same way I do any journey—that the in-between part is at least half the fun. Which is also why I’d rather drive to, say, Florida, than fly. Sure, the airlines do it quicker—a few hours for them versus twelve hours for me…and that’s if I hustle and don’t stop much along the way; or two days if I can take the time to dawdle a bit. But either way, by driving I get the sense of going somewhere, of the distance covered and the way the landscape changes. By contrast there’s a sort of unreality when I step into a jetliner in Ohio and step out in Florida a couple of hours later. I feel disconnected—not jet lagged—but missing the miles of landscape separating me from where I now stand and where I came from. Maybe a little robbed, too, that I didn’t get to see and touch and smell and hear it—if only from an opened window as I tooled down the highway. That’s how I feel about these days of late-November—a sense of seasonal journey to be quietly enjoyed. And best savored with a handful of fresh-baked oatmeal cookies!