Autumn, not only my favourite season but one where nostalgia for the good ol’ days kicks up a notch as well as fallen leaves.
Beyond the blessed rearview mirror perspective of festive season
bullshit bustle, and with its tendency to confer gentle weather [although less than optimally wrought in 2022], mid-autumn notably also heralds the practice of sentimental gastronomy.
Though the whys and wherefores of my propensity to and for autumn or autumnal nostalgia are not as clear cut as my regard for pancakes with lemon and sugar, as well as Iceland poppies, black swans and ginger cats influenced by memories of my mother’s partialities.
Ahhh can you recall those heady days before the pandemic, of carefree get-togethers with family and friends, holidays and houseguests. Easter, my preferred of all public holidays: not for the chocolate, rather its abeyance of hype, here in the Southern Hemisphere fortuitously happens in autumn’s midst. This year along with customary confectionary eggs, Easter delivered a long-anticipated visit from 16-year-old Grandson Number 1. However, within days and with less than auspicious timing came the advice I was a close contact of not one but two Covid-positive people around the time of his arrival.
On the upside, it gave me but especially Pop and Grandson Number 1 time to relax within the environs of our home and village, spend time together, catch up with each other’s lives and stories, explore old photographs and memories, hand down family history, try a short spin on the back of back of Pop’s motorcycle, watch Pop’s favourite motorcycle TV shows and movies, wrangle Pop’s troublesome drone, practise driving Pop’s ride-on lawnmower, swap Wordle and Quordle hints, and pander to Diesel-Dog’s inexhaustible desire for games of catch involving a spit-drenched toy.
In between, we fueled up on what over the years has become anticipated convivial cuisine… Viking cutlets and fat snags from our local butcher expertly barbecued by Pop accompanied by his habitual discourse on the proper technique, potato bake, baked ham, roasted chicken and vegetables, Friday night spaghetti with chilli-garlic-tomato-prawns. And the delight of introducing Grandson Number 1 to things unfamiliar… Kewpie mayonnaise, Roma -as opposed to standard supermarket- tomatoes, homemade basil pesto, and Pop delivering an expresso coffee for him to enjoy in bed each morning. There’s an unusual dearth of corresponding food photos on my camera roll: evidence of my level of anxiety about one or all of us contracting the dreaded ‘rona.
On the downside, ongoing wet weather rendered inadvisable our traditional drives to explore local backroads which are prone to landslips and deteriorate further with every downpour. The possibility of Covid contagion meant venturing further and visiting other family locally was limited by our sense of responsibility… disappointing for Grandson Number 1 and his 88-year-old great-grandmother who was only able to see him masked up from a cautious distance.
Fortunately, I didn’t get Covid-19, nor did the G.O. or Grandson Number 1… and after negative RATs to be sure, we were able to send him home Covid-free at the end of the week. We don’t subscribe to the popular notion “everyone will get Covid”. So far so good we haven’t succumbed… but like many others similarly, the cost of wellbeing is years of constrained lifestyle choices. With worrying infection numbers prevailing it seems crazy to change our stance now. A memorable week for mixed reasons… maybe it will graduate from a quaint make-the-best-of-it-story when nostalgia kicks in a decade or so.
“And so their memories took on potential, which is of course how our greatest nostalgias are born.”
― Mohsin Hamid, Exit West
Despite my aversion to Hallmark occasions, the month of May is usually accompanied by familial nostalgia, beginning as it does with Mother’s Day and finishing with my Mum’s birthday and what would be her and Dad’s wedding anniversary.
Our Mother’s Day weekend weather was on the wintry side of autumnal and stirred a timely hankering for comfort foods and soups of my childhood which we conjured using simple ingredients ready to hand from garden, pantry, fridge and freezer. So commonplace is our nostalgia fare I often tend not to photograph it… and it’s not always possible impart visual appeal to rice pudding or savoury mince.
Time spent preparing food is almost always in the company of my kitchen muses and often contemplative of the past but more so in the days following the recent real estate listing of the farm that once belonged to my grandparents and where I spent much of my early years.
Almost 5 decades have passed since any of my family resided at the property which in our time was known as Oakleigh, so it’s only natural when viewing the real estate photographs to notice that although some remain reminiscent of our time, many features have changed including the name to Oakleigh Park, repurposed and added rooms, and notably bold wall treatments.
“It shocks me how I wish for… what is lost and cannot come back.”
― Sue Monk Kidd, Traveling With Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story
While memories of my grandparents’ farmhouse inspire many choices I make for our home, in an interesting synchronicity Oakleigh Park’s kitchen walls present similar buttery hues to those in my kitchen here at Taylors Arm, a feature I don’t recollect from my last visit for the farm’s centenary celebration in 2011. However, in a curious feat of unwitting nostalgia, the G.O.’s paint choice of traditional early 20th century duck egg blues and greens for the rest of our interior walls -selected years before I ever set foot in Taylors Arm- evoke the walls of my Oakleigh childhood remembrances.
Nostalgia accompanies the bittersweet reconciliation where knowledge I’m unable to return to the farm meets understanding I also no longer wish to, despite clinging to cherished reminiscences which somehow sweeten my appreciation for the home the G.O. and I have created together… and cognisance it also once was someone else’s grandparents’ house… such is the way of it.
“You can’t return to a place that no longer exists, luv.”
― Samantha Sotto, Before Ever After
Finally, despite ongoing crappy meteorological conditions… let’s not talk about the weather!… We’ve had a bloody good go at appreciating this autumnal season, although there is indeed balm in the stack of firewood out the back ready for when winter inevitably makes its-chilly-self felt.
“how sad and bad and mad it was – but then, how it was sweet”
― Robert Browning
Tell me, what is your favourite season and does it elicit nostalgia?