Now is the time we naturally migrate to red wine, and stouts. These can be difficult to tolerate when the temperatures soar above 95 degrees. Not so the case after the Autumn Equinox, when geese fly south and teetotalers around the globe take shelter from the onslaught of Oktoberfest celebrations.

Despite the fact that all this alcohol kills germs, the back-to-school season also means head lice, morning meltdowns, and flu bugs for those of the parental variety. The fact that they even make kids’ cold medicines “non drowsy” formula suggests a level of idiocy and/or evil that probably should have foretold the current state of our society.

For the first time, this year I made apple butter at my daughter’s school. Volunteers tape layers of craft paper to the cafeteria floor, deploy ancient torture devices to remove the skin from the fruit, and recruit little old ladies from the nursing home to wield paring knives. The byproduct of this mischief gets dumped by the bushel basket into giant brass cauldrons over propane fire with unmentionable amounts of sugar and cinnamon; then idiots like me stir the mess with long wooden paddles for hours and hours until we lose the will to live. Finally, a stubborn German woman declares that the molten lava has achieved the appropriate viscosity via spoon test, and a team assembles to funnel the goo into jars to be sold by the case. Later, the less ambitious of the football enthusiasts will slop it on crackers to cool the fires of their overspiced chili and deer sausage.

I grew up playing soccer, so stopping a game after each play to set everyone up for the next play seems silly to me. Football feels more like chess, only instead of using intricately carved game pieces, they use 300-pound men slamming violently into each other. What this season really means to me is Homecoming reunions, which is why autumn is the time of year to panic-diet and embark on a masochistic quest for jeans that miraculously make my ass look half its age.

Of course, for those of us who spend the majority of their daylight hours parked in front of a computer, autumn means we are finally free of battling that reality just so we can wear shorts in public without blinding anyone. We can also consume cinnamon rolls and pasta alfredo and growlers of homebrew without danger of being spotted anywhere near a 19-year-old in a string bikini. And shaving, exfoliating, moisturizing?? If you happen to be single, and can avoid emergency medical intervention, it’s feasible that no other human being will see your naked flesh for the next seven months. Go ahead, make that snooze bar your bitch. Not even the sun is up yet.

It’s those shorter days that cause the leaves on the trees to change colors. Apparently these greedy oxygen factories require more than 12 hours of sunlight per day in order for photosynthesis to occur or they sulk and turn colors and throw leaves all over the floor. The change in weather also makes turkeys hook up with other turkeys like themselves. Hens with poults band together. Old maids flock up. Mature gobblers talk scotch (I presume) in their bachelor’s clubs. And the young jakes cavort like rowdy teenagers and hang out together. They’ll stay in these flocks until their mating season in early spring.

I’d like to make a bigger fuss over the succulent gastronomical glory of turkey slathered in butter with delicately seasoned bread crumbs shoved up its carcass, but honestly my Thanksgiving strategy is to drink enough wine that nobody lets me do dishes, so turkey is really just the foundation for pumpkin pie.

What I’d like to know is how is it that you never really see all that many pumpkins growing, then suddenly it’s October and there are thousands of them stacked up everywhere you turn. These edible basketballs derived their name from the Greek word “pepon” which, literally interpreted, means “large melon,” so apparently Pauly Shore was involved. The French word for “pepon” was “pompon” but you can imagine the arms on their cheerleaders, which is why the English changed it to “pumpion.” Somehow, probably due to a simple breakdown in literacy, American colonists changed “pumpion” to “pumpkin.” Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites, but we now have spiced pumpkin lattes, mulled cider, and medicines that make us too drowsy to care, so we just gut them, cut them, and try not to light them on fire.

An American colonist’s ode to pumpkin (circa 1630):

“For pottage and puddings and custard and pies,
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies:
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon.”

####

Photo by Danielle Scott (bake these.  Uploaded by Skeezix1000) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.