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Cooking Season

11/24/08 7:55AM By Leora Dowling
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(HOST) Commentator Leora Dowling has been enjoying one of the more subtle pleasures of Vermont's changing seasons.

(DOWLING) It’s that time of year when many laid back Vermonters bemoan the early onset of darkness.  The fact that the sun is coming up at 6:30 a.m. when kids are getting ready for school and farmers are setting out for their barns somehow isn’t offset by blackening skies at 4:30 p.m.

But not all of us hate it when Daylight Savings Time ends in early November.  I know I look forward to the change, not because I’m up early to head to the office - I’m not; but because I like to cook and eat dinner after the sun has set.

It just feels right: romantic, homey, traditional.

I love to cook, especially things like soups, stews, and sauces.  To me, late autumn afternoons are the perfect time to concoct recipes using the ingredients I get locally from my CSA, like squash, onions, potatoes, garlic, carrots and kale.  Late season mesclun makes a wonderful salad topped with roasted beets.  And, although we eat aglio olio - linguini topped with extra virgin olive oil, lots of freshly chopped garlic, crushed red pepper and grated parmesan cheese - all year round, when it’s warm outside having a big pot of boiling pasta water on the stove isn’t really a pleasure.  In colder months, watching the steam rise is a delight. And I get immense satisfaction from stirring a thick pot of soup.

I love to prepare food for my family and friends in my kitchen.  It’s not big, compared to new-house kitchens, but it’s just the right size to qualify as both spacious and cozy.  My pots and pans hang conveniently from hooks above the center island.  We have a small table that my brother made for us, and there’s a plaid wing chair and reading lamp beside a floor-to-ceiling bookcase.  When I’m busy chopping vegetables, my husband sits and reads. We listen to the news on the radio.  And there’s no sense of guilt that we should be outside working or playing - or at least barbecueing.  We just enjoy being inside together.  The dark, cool night allows us that.

And when its time to eat, we light some candles and sit down to feast on a hearty meal.  Whether it’s Hungarian goulash, grilled eggplant with polenta, or split pea soup made with ham given to us by our next door neighbor, who keeps a few pigs, it’s always something warm and comforting.

Sure, summer cooking has its own culinary satisfactions.  And come June I’m definitely ready to shift over to cooler, lighter, more easy-to-prepare meals.  But now is the time of year for real cooking.  For slicing and sautéing, for experimenting and fussing, and for savoring the aromas that waft through the house, rather than out open windows.

And this week I have the added pleasure of getting ready for Thanksgiving. I think I’ll get a head start and make my famous apple, cranberry, and raisin pie tonight.  Yum.
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