Quick! Before the leaves are all gone! Make some soup and pack yourself a picnic! At least that’s what we did on Saturday, right in the middle of a day when we should have been getting ahead with work projects and, I don’t know, balancing the checkbook.
Even though it was raining and the skies were gray, we practiced hope by loading up a picnic basket, hopping in the car, and driving 20 minutes east where, miraculously, we found ourselves in the crisp fall day that was The Hermitage.
I don’t know what it’s like where you are right now, but here in Tennessee, fall is in full swing, pushing towards winter.
At the beginning of last week, the giant tree in our front yard – the one so big, it hides our house from view on Google maps – was still mostly green; but overnight it turned orange, a fierce, fiery orange that took my breath away when I first saw it; then, on our blustery, storm-watch of a Halloween night, half of its leaves fell down.
I’m wearing sweaters again, not coats, but sweaters and boots just the same. Daylight savings pushed us all to the brink of “Oh no! Winter’s coming!” woes and we’re all wondering how to make the most of dark 5 p.m.
These are the literal golden days, the ones where you go for a walk and have 15 new photos on your iPhone because those trees! How can you ignore them when you take a second to look? And even if the place that you call home is already post-foliage and ensconced in snow, this is the only November 2013 you will ever have, so why not take an hour one day to pay attention to it?
That’s what sent us over to the The Hermitage Saturday. An 1,100-acre (!) estate known as the former home of Andrew Jackson and one of the largest open spaces in Nashville, The Hermitage has 32 historical buildings, two springs, a formal garden, a cotton field, and some of the prettiest collections of trees I’ve ever seen in Tennessee.
We parked ourselves on a picnic table with our Goodwill blanket and basket of soup and overlooked rows of golden branches along the path that runs through the grounds.
While I was mostly there for the fall colors, Tim is, as he likes to say, the “curious sort,” so we worked our way through different historical signs and buildings and learned about the Tennessee man who was once our nation’s president.
Big points to The Hermitage for not sugar-coating his history, which, as you may already know, involved being a unashamed proponent of slavery. There is something deeply grieving about walking into tiny buildings that once housed nine people or reading placards about how a long-time slave asked Jackson’s kids’ tutor how he’d feel in his shoes.
It’s hard to believe slavery was once acceptable where we live. It’s hard to believe similar practices are acceptable in other places today. It makes you think that, you know, all of society can be telling you something is okay even when it is decidedly not.
While we walked on the land behind Jackson’s plantation-style home, it was with a view of cows grazing in the fields and white lights set up at The Cabin by the Spring, where a wedding reception was going to take place. Leaves flew through the air with the wind as we walked, leaves crunching beneath our steps.
We were only at The Hermitage for an hour or two, but it was an hour or two that felt worlds away from any place else, just me and Tim surrounded by the golden leaves and towering cedars and beautiful walkways curving through acreage. It was good for my spirit.
There is something about this season that makes me want to slow time down and park awhile. Early November for three weeks, please! But of course we can’t slow time down. We can’t increase how much of it we have. We can’t make autumn last forever, much as I’d like it if we could.
So these days, whenever I can, I’m taking a moment to look at and consider it. These are days to savor.
In the spirit of savoring: a video that gives you a taste of our life lately! (Recipe below)
A creamy squash soup with the warming spices of curry. So good, so tasty, and perfect for fall.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup of chopped onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- dash of crushed red pepper
- teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 3 cups squash puree*
- 1 cup organic half and half
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Dollops of yogurt and fresh herbs, to garnish, if desired
In a large stockpot over medium heat, warm two tablespoons of olive oil. Add chopped onion and garlic, stir together, and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the spices (turmeric, coriander, cumin, crushed red pepper, ginger) while things cook.
Add two cups vegetable stock and three cups squash puree to the pot, reduce heat to a simmer, and let cook 10 to 15 minutes. Remove soup from heat, and, using an immersion blender, puree it (or, working in batches, puree it in a food processor or a Vitamix).
Next, add half and half and coconut sugar, stirring to dissolve. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot, in bowls or mugs. Garnish with dollops of yogurt and/or chopped fresh herbs (we used parsley).
To make squash or pumpkin puree: Preheat oven to 375F. Cut gourd in half and scoop out seeds. Lightly oil the cut sides and place the gourds, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Cook for 30 minutes to an hour, until a four easily pierces the flesh. Let cool. Scoop out insides. For a soup like this, you may use the flesh as is. For a pie or other uses, place the squash flesh in a food processor blender and pulse until super smooth.
Happy fall, with all of its leaf-raking, bread-baking, soup-sipping beauty, to each one of you, wherever you are. The song in the video is from Josh Garrels, one of our favorite lyricists, and the words in this one especially resonate with me and with the thoughts from our last post.
Special thanks to The Hermitage for letting us tour your facility Saturday! You gave us a wonderful gift in surrounding us with your beauty. While our admission was free Saturday, all opinions expressed in this post are our own. To learn more about The Hermitage, go to TheHermitage.com.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.