The arrival of autumn has been celebrated for centuries, from ancient times to the present, with harvest festivals. These festivals were usually held at the end of the growing season, because people throughout the ages commemorated the hard work involved and the abundance of foods available; pumpkins, corn, squash, beans, wheat, apples and nuts, during this season of plenty.
At harvest festivals contests were held, music was played, bonfires were built and plenty of eating and drinking took place. It’s no wonder that in the Western Hemisphere, autumn is depicted by full, lush women bearing ripened fruits and grain. The North American Indians also had many festivals tied to autumn and gathering food from the wild to prepare for winter.
When I was looking for the symbols of the autumn on the other day for my upcoming book I came across with the harvest moon. This is the full moon that occurs at the closest time to the Autumn Equinox. Usually it is in September, but it can occur in October, as it did in 2009 and will again in 2017. The full harvest moon was so named in the 18th century because it was bright enough that farmers could work into the night by it’s light.
But autumn is also a time of melancholy for some. The end of the summer’s warmth and light has come, and the prospect of cold and darkness lay ahead for many months.It is a season that inspires you to look inward, to reflect and consider the choices you have made, and the options still open to you. Autumn also comes a sense of balance, abundance now, leanness to come; equal hours of daylight and darkness, feelings of warmth and of chill.
Death is also linked to the autumn and harvest. Crops were gathered from the field in autumn by reaping with a sickle or scythe. So too were souls depicted as being gathered from the earth. The Angel of Death, first came about in the 15th century and was depicted as a skeleton carrying a scythe. Some believed the Angel was simply an escort to the afterlife. His role was not to judge, but to provide safe passage for the newly departed soul.
Acorns, chestnuts and oak leaves symbolize strength. For me autumn means eating more games. We have a tempting selection of partridge, wild duck, wild boar, in Great Britain the woodcock and the wood pigeons. Another cast of characters that appear in autumn are the wild mushrooms, each with their own individual structure, flavor, texture, and with a pick’n mix assortment of colors to please and tempt the eyes.
So I decided to celebrate the Fall as my ancestors did-with an abundant dinner, a glass of wine, laughter, stories, and a soul-warming bonfire! At the dinner table my husband exclaimed: so autumn daylight may well be disappearing but new tastes are just beginning! This excellent French recipe makes you aware of this.
Wild bore with Armagnac
Ingredients: 1 onion & a big garlic clove, a tablespoon of flour & one of concentrated tomatoes, juice of a half lemon and/or small glass of Sherry vinegar (vinegar de Jerez), salt, pepper, thyme, bay-leaf, a small glass of Brandy or Armagnac, white wine
Directions: Use a wok or a skillet or one of these deep copper pans that my French auntie calls “sauteuse”. Cut your fillet into thin slices. Heat the chopped onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil and start cooking the meat slices. Season with salt, thyme and pepper. Cook on hot fire for a rather long while until the moment when the meat will have released most of its moist. At this stage the meat will be bathing in a gray juice. Sprinkle with the flour, stir and let it dry and turn brown. Add the concentrated tomato, then the lemon juice and/or the vinegar of Jerez, the brandy and stir well again. Add white wine to cover level (probably less than a half bottle). Season again with salt, pepper and bay leaf just after adding the wine and let this boil to reduce of 2 thirds. The result is a dish of meat slices bathing in a not too short brown sauce. Like a Chinese dish featuring European countryside taste! The whole thing is rather quickly done. As a side dish you can serve with potato or parsnip purée and blueberry marmalade!