It is no great secret that fall is my favorite holiday. My friends and family know that as much as I love the cold weather, as much as I love Mardi Gras and as much as I love bikini season, there is no time of year that holds a candle to the tapering off of lawn mowing, the welcomed departure (albeit slowly) of mosquitoes, the dawn of football and the smell of autumn kitchens as mulled cider precedes hot soups and root vegetables.
I don’t care what the fashionistas see in their little crystal balls. I shamelessly predict a little corduroy and flannel with buzzard boots and Woodford Reserve in my future. I gave up smoking years ago, but the darker scents of tobacco and leather trigger something in me that makes me keep my hair long and my beard thin, enough to catch the scent of fall on the Mobile wind that can turn a hot fall day into a cool front porch social over the course of an hour. The old adage is, “If you don’t like the weather in Mobile, just wait a minute.” That goes for early evening temperatures almost as much as rain.
Fall will officially begin Sunday, Sept. 23, and although I don’t expect it to be very cool yet, I can say I’ve noticed a little drop in the morning heat as I get in my post-carpool/pre-work walk. The thought of plunging thermometers has me yearning for coffee tables with oranges and lemons studded with cloves, cinnamon sticks stirring some fruity concoction resting over low heat and the first batch of Texas Trash.
So, to celebrate the upcoming seasonal change, I decided to do a little research slightly out of my comfort zone and explore some trends.
A PSA on PSL
It is upon us. The Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL, has seen its share of attention over the past couple of years and is still a trend, but with all the jokes about it I feel that some of you take it very seriously. Of the people I know who wait for Starbucks to post the PSL sign in the window, fully prepared to sit in a drive-thru for 30 minutes, I would say 100 percent of them are women. I’m not saying men don’t drink them, I’m just saying I don’t know any men who drink them.
I can’t talk any degree of smack about the PSL without trying one myself, so I ventured out on a cool 81 F. morning in search of what drives the women wild. I figure Starbucks is responsible for this craze so I’d better give that one a shot. With an extra long drive-thru line, I had to risk being seen ordering something as ridiculous as this and entered the business to grab two little samples for Katie and myself.
“I’ll have two of the smallest pumpkin spice lattes you have.”
“Do you want the small or the short? The small is 8 ounces and the short is 6 ounces,” asks the server.
“Which of those is smaller?” I playfully replied. Let’s pretend she liked my comment. I still have trouble figuring out how I can order two of anything and it comes out to $9.35.
A minute or two later my name is yelled for everyone to hear. It was as if they were trying to let the world know that a grown man was ordering not one, but two pumpkin spice lattes, the shame of which should send me to the car covering my face and scrambling to get home. Not me, though. I’ll accept any ridicule and therefore held my head high as I waded through people on my way out the door, hell-bent on keeping an open mind and enjoying this suburbia fad.
My first sip was an eye opener. It was mega sweet. You can taste layers of nutmeg and cloves, and though the pumpkin flavor is present, it begins to have a bit of a chemical taste the further in you get. The one thing I couldn’t taste was coffee. The whole experience can be likened to drinking the candle section of my sister’s antique mall. So I am out.
I’m no fan of pumpkin ales, either. It’s no slight on any of these businesses, I’m just surprised people buy it. Make hay while the sun shines, Starbucks and microbreweries. If people are buying, sell it to them. I’ll stand in the other line.
Shake your pompoms
Pomegranate juice is everywhere, but not so far back a lot of you never touched the fruit. I grew up with them every fall so I’m glad to see them on the trendy list of autumn foods. We see them from September through Mardi Gras and know of their many health benefits, such as being high in antioxidants and having natural anti-inflammatory properties.
This “Jewel of Autumn” is sometimes referred to as the Chinese apple and promotes inner peace as you open the thick skin to find a treasure of delicious seeds, known as arils.
Last year pomegranates were employed in a lot of drinks and desserts. Expect to see them this year in more appetizers and main courses. The slightly sweet but dry fruit (seeds and juice) work really well in sauces with garlic, thyme and good olive oil. As a marinade pomegranate juice can really give pork or lamb an interesting flavor.
As much as I love seeing their popularity in restaurants I mostly enjoy eating them alone. By that I mean by myself. Not sharing. To avoid making a mess, open the pomegranate underwater in a large mixing bowl. This is the best way to keep the seeds from scattering. Put them in smoothies with yogurt and nuts or serve them with brie. Try to incorporate them with as much savory stuff as you do sweet.
Keep the trends alive!