Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Bite for All Seasons, or It's All About The Food.

Okay, I admit it. I LOVE the Valentine's Day. . . primarily because of the cheesy chocolates. I love the flowers and all that, too, but Valentine's Day is the only holiday that I relax my vigilance against sweets and truly indulge. Hahahahahaha. Whew. And this year, I was surprised to see, the candy companies have finally taken my suggestion and gotten rid of those pesky candy wrapper cups that always made such a mess. . . not to mention giving away the fact that some of the candy was gone.

Then I went to the supermarket yesterday to pick up a few things and the table of girl scouts and brownies was there! It's girl scout cookie season already! That was when I realized: other people may have seasons designated summer winter, spring, and fall. . . but I have a few more than four. . . and they're all named after food.

January, except for New Year's Day, is generally casserole season for me. When I was growing up, casseroles were a way to use leftovers. But these days, I spend hours in the kitchen making up fresh ingredients to put into a casserole. . . which will then taste mostly like leftovers. Go figure. The only saving grace of this season is cheese. Without cheese melting and spreading a benediction over everything, casserole season would be a bizarre starchy wasteland.

Then comes heart-shaped chocolate season. . . which we have just completed. Centers on Valentine's Day, but extends a week or more on either side of the actual date. It was a short, short season this year. Five days. Resulting in the "licked clean" box you see above. sigh. Every year it seems to get shorter.

Then it's girl scout cookie season. . . which begins with the first "cookie table" sighting outside my favorite Publix supermarket. Some years I've been fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood with one of the little "distributors" and have gotten to order direct. But I always feel guilty about giving the little scouts' dads hernias when they deliver my order.

Following close on is peep season. . . which begins on the first day of Lent. It will be a very short season this year, Lent starting so close to the beginnning of GSC season. This is celebrated mostly in front of stores carrying marshmallow "peeps" in the shape of chicks. You can always tell the sacred celebration spots because the trash cans overflow with yellow and purple "Peeps" wrappers. Most people don't want to admit eating these things, so they consume them close to the point of purchase and then try to pretend they didn't indulge. I say, be proud of your heritage. . . even if it is nutritionally bereft.

Afterward comes egg season. Boiled, baked in brunch casseroles, and used to bind together all manner of unlikely ingredients. . . eggs are perhaps our most primal culinary delight. Not to mention being a fertility symbol and connected with Easter. Early to mid spring, we need a jolt of cholesterol and some reminders that warmth and better food are just a few warm days away.

Then comes strawberry season. Hurrah! Dreary spring rains have actually contributed something useful to the world. . . strawberries! I have strawberries on cereal, in salads, in jams and dressings and Jello. . . they dress up my cakes and I put them over puddings and dip them in contraband chocolate. . . I order them in margaritas and drop them in champagne at weddings. They are everything that's right with the world.

The 1st of July ushers in hot dog season. Traditionally the 4th of July kicks off this season, but for simplification purposes (and to get in a few exxtra foot-longs) I've moved it ahead a few days. I don't ever miss out. Weinie roasts, pigs in blankets, family cookouts, and ball games. . . they're everywhere. The older and more sophisticated among us often graduate to "brats" as they age. . . but the hot dog season and it's devoted following survives.

Late summer is the time for fair food season. . . a mercifully brief, confusing, MardiGras-like period of excess and abandon. Fried elephant ears, pork chops on a stick, fried snickers bars, fried cheese curds, fallafal on a stick, corn dogs on a stick, fried ice cream on a stick. . . it's a good thing this lasts only ten days. . . during State Fair week. Otherwise western civilization would be brought to its knees.

September is apple season in the north and even though I'm southern by geography these days, I still cling to the old ways. Cider, apple pies, caramel apples, apple kucken, fried apples, dunking for apples and then eating them. . . Apple season is a time of plenty and tart sweetness that reminds us regularity can be fun.

October is alternately known as chili season in the north and overgrown zucchini season in the south. . . which in my estimation is why the South lost the war between the states. Chili with it's iron-and-protein-packed ground meat, fiber-rich beans, prostate-healthy tomatoes, and varying levels of heart-wise pepper and onions is nothing short of a superfood. Pair it with cornbread muffins and some sharp cheddar cheese. . . you have the stuff that could power an army, a nation, an economy. Albeit a rather odiferous one. Which gives us a whole new slant on the phrase "this economy stinks." (Note to Mr. Obama: declare a shortened chili season. Everybody has to make sacrifices.)

November is turkey season, despite the fact that most of the turkey consumed is squeezed into the last week of the month. Turkey and it's blessed leftovers, which are often bagged and frozen to be consumed during casserole season, casts its shadow over the entire month. The accompaniments of cranberries and stuffing and the ubiquitous mashed potatoes and everpresent pumpkin pie are overshadowed but not forgotten. It is truly a month of culinary indulgence and delight. Oh, and afternoon naps.

December 1st kicks off cookie season. Yes, I know there are ham and homemade rolls and egg nog and Chex Mix at parties. I know there are candy canes, cheese balls, hot spinach dip and chocolate fountains that populate the season. But cookies are the thing I most associate with the time around Christmas. Hey, it's MY season and I get to name it. Snickerdoodles. Peanut Blossoms (with the Hershey kisses on top). Buttery cookie press cookies. Sugar cookies for decorating with lots of piping and sprinkles. White chocolate macadamia nut cookies. Thumbprint cookies. Date bars. Pinwheels. Lemon bars. Candy cane cookies. And those caramel thingies Susie gave us the recipe for some months back. Sigh. Better yet, we have parties where we swap cookies to get a greater variety and share our bounty with others. I mean, generosity and intense carbo-loading. . . it doesn't get much better than that!

So that's my private calendar. My own special seasons.

What about you? Do you have your own special mental calendar? What's it based on?
Do you have foods that you love so much that you'd gladly name a season after them?


Kylie said...

Oh I so agree about 'the benediction of cheese' :) My family melts cheese on everything. Everything! What's a casserole without cheese?

I looooove casseroles! But because I'm a picky eater, I leave out all ingredients that I don't like. This sometimes means there are only three ingredients, but they are all stuff I love so it's good!

I'm craving my special chicken/stuffing/cheese casserole. I might just whip up a batch tonight so I can eat it for the rest of the week!

Christie Ridgway said...

LOL on the food seasons, Betina! I'm with you on the cheese.

I can't think of a season you've missed...oh, maybe avocado season here in SoCal, which is just about anytime because we grow 'em around here.

But I have to tell you...I got both my kids Peeps in the shape of lips for Valentine's Day. Son 2 microwaved his...then ate it!

Helen Brenna said...

Oh, Betina, you never fail to bring me a smile!

I need a grilling season in there somewhere - alternates with soup season. We have rasberry bushes, so have to add that to your strawberry season.

I used to identify the seasons with fruits. When I was a kid, you could only get oranges and bananas in the winter. Berries and melons in the summer. Apples in the fall. Now you can get everything all year round.

Keri Ford said...

Watermelons! I know they're around the 4th and come hand-in hand with hot dogs. Though I must admit, I've been eating a lot of hot dogs (turkey dogs, and they're really good). Vent 'em and pop them in the toaster oven for 1 and a 1/2 rounds of toasting and they're ready!

Also, cucumbers. Which come in the spring, I believe. We've got a couple friends of the family who grows cucumbers. Mouth is watering for onions, cucumbers, ice, vinegar/water mixture with a little salt and pepper. Mmmm.

Oh! Oh! And plumes! Don't remember their season, other than sometime between spring and fall. Grandma has a huge plum tree and I can pick all I want. I've got a peach tree that I'm expecting fruit off this year.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Betina, your calendar is so true, foodwise. Growing up in New England, I remember asparagus season, blueberry season, maple sugar candy and syrup season...

Oh, corn on the cob season! I remember when UMass developed "butter and sugar" corn--yellow and white mixed, now goes by lots of names--and we had it often while it was in season. Gotta get it from a reliable stand, picked that morning, cook it same day. I hate overcooked corn. It's a sin. Absolutely no more than in boiling water. My dear S-I-L wouldn't believe me until he tried it himself with a timer.

Oh, and fried green tomato season, ripe tomato season, watermelon season...

Betina Krahn said...

I'm so glad, Kylie that there are other cheese afficionados out there. There is little in the culinary world that can't be improved by the addition of CHEESE.

Christie, I love avocados! When I'm not in weight loss mode, i go for them in salads, on sandwiches, and in dips galore. They are a little high in calories, however. sigh.

Helen, you're so right about the way fruit(and produce in general) used to be available only in certain seasons! Still to this day, I associate tangerines with Christmas. Berries in the summer-- because we had a huge strawberry patch. Melons in summer, of course.

Watermelon-- Keri you're so right. But cantalope was my favorite. When we lived in Oklahoma, there were huge melon farms all around us and we feasted in late summer. The things were dirt cheap. I wonder if that's still true. And cucumbers.. . which we also do with the tomatoes and onions in the sweetened vinegar. Except these days, we use rice vinegar infused with roasted garlic (available in your store!).

Anybody else getting hungry?

Betina Krahn said...

Kathy! How could I have forgotten corn on the cob season in August. . . right before fair-food season?

And how long did you say you keep your corn in the boiling water? My standard was always 7 minutes. . . but the sig other insists it has to do with the way the water looks. This is a real point of contention in July and August.

Michele Hauf said...

love the seasons, Betina!

I gotta go with Kathy on tomato season. I love a nice big beefy tomato fresh from the garden, sliced and peppered.

Michele Hauf said...

Oh wait! What about lefsa season? It's usually December-January for us, though you can get it all year, it's more a holiday food.

Debra Dixon said...

Betina-- I didn't think you could get through the year, but you did it. You rounded the calendar in food seasons. LOL!

I adore tomato season.

Ditto for "soup" season. I've always loved a warm bit of soup. Hubby has a stellar soup recipe which we affectionately refer to as "crack soup" because it's addictive.

Cindy Gerard said...

Betina leave it to you to illiterate so well what the seasons are REALLY all about.
I'm pretty much right on target with you. but fresh asparagus and watermelon are my absolute favorite times of the year.

And speaking of Peeps - did you know they are really fun to roast over a camp fire? Just a fun little twist on roasting marshmallows!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Cindy, what a great idea--roasted Peeps!

On the fresh corn, Betina--rolling boil, plunk the corn in for 3 minutes. Try it. You'll never go back to overcooked corn.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I love corn on the grill, too. Give it a quick ice water bath first. Baste with butter. We learned to love grilled veggies in New Mexico--one of our favorite places to visit. Sweet Potato slices grilled raw, bated with butter--yum!

Debra Dixon said...

Cindy-- Roasting Peeps? What a great idea. I'm sending it to my sister now.

Betina Krahn said...

Michele. . . lefse season? Okay, I guess I can see that-- especially with the butter and sugar and cinnamon on it. Yum. Do you make it yourself?

And Deb-- soup! My only defense in leaving this out is that for me soup is a year around thing, even here in FLA-land. We make different soups at different times of year, but it's always "soup kitchen" at our house.

Cindy-- Holy Cow! ROASTED Peeps? That's like in the serial killer training manual or something, isn't it? Watching those cute little chickens melt and swell up. . . wait a minute. . . marshmallow. . . I guess if you close your eyes while you're eating. . .

And Kathy. . . 3 minutes? Really? Sig Other would never let me get by with that. I have trouble wrestling him down to 7 minutes! But I'm going to try it, all the same! And I LUV roasted veggies!
Maybe I should think about adding "grilling season" to my list.

Anonymous said...

LOL Betina,

I've often heard about the "everything on a stick" foods our cousins enjoy every year at the Minnesota State Fair ... but pork chops? Really?

We have "pancake and maple syrup" season here in Ohio in February and March. Which, of course we MUST participate in, because it's for a good cause - the VFW and Volunteer Fire Departments of every town around us hosts them. And of course we buy syrup and maple-candy people/hearts/leaves to support them!

Re: corn. Try it in the microwave. No, really. Leave them in the husks, wrap them in moistened kitchen towels, and nuke the suckers. OUTSTANDING.

And on the subject of food, what ever happened to those yummy recipes you posted on your website when THE MARRIAGE TEST was released? I went looking for them again when I re-read that series recently, and they were gone! Pleeeeeeeeze tell me you still have the cherry rissoles recipe somewhere?


spamword: dress, and I won't fit into any of mine if I keep thinking about all this yummy stuff; I can feel the pounds attaching at the hips already!

Betina Krahn said...

Hey, Lynne, send me your e-mail addy to bkrahn@tampabay.rr.com and I'll send it to you!

So good to hear from you!