One of the things I love the most about this time of year is the magical way time seems to slow down. Everything seems to be taking its own sweet time – the changing of the leaves, the first frost to really land, the final vegetables to be harvested. Yesterday morning while walking our dogs, I noticed even the sunrise seemed to color the sky more slowly.
This annual signal from nature to decelerate is a welcome invitation in my heart and my home, especially my kitchen. The other night, I spent well over an hour to cook a simple potato and leek soup. I savored slicing the leeks and smelling them caramelize with butter in the pan. I took time to notice how soft the farmers market fingerlings were to cut. My husband helped by cutting fresh herbs, one sprig at a time, for our seasoning bouquet. When the soup was almost complete, I allowed it to fill my senses to detect that a little cooking sherry would really bring the whole flavor profile together (and it did!).
Cooking fresh bacon chunks and toasting raw pepitas, I remembered how much little touches like putting toppings in small bowls not only enhanced the flavor but also elevated our whole table experience. Inviting us to be more present. To be more active rather than a passive participant. To try new things, like crunchy seeds on top of soup. Thinking it was apple slices, my husband discovered that he actually likes spring turnips on a salad, and we had a good laugh about how I like to slide in new ingredients while he’s not paying attention.
This simple meal also facilitated a conversation about how much we treasure being able to buy local foods as everything on the table (except the pumpkin seeds) were from a local farm. We spoke about how there is more flavor in fresh, seasonal foods and how it keeps us connected to the fact the seasons are changing (I hadn’t made this soup over the summer!). I reflected on my experience at the farmers market the previous weekend – connecting with friends, my son, the special golden light of a fall morning and the love that went into growing the foods we now get to eat.
What is seasonally available can help us remember which foods are most beneficial at this time and tee us up to try new things. Having leeks at the farmers market and bacon bits in the meat CSA inspired the meal, inviting in creativity about how to use all of the bounty. It helps shake up the typical dinner rotation and reach out in search of a new recipe or flavor.
More than anything, that dinner reminded me how much the energy that is put into the food and the meal preparation truly does make a difference. When curiosity, ease and delight are put into the meal, it takes on a totally new vibration. When we slow down enough, we can feel it ... the ingredient that enhances the meal more than anything is love.
Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.