It isn’t a date on the calendar, or a certain temperature on the thermometer.
I’m not sure what it is that triggers the switch to my autumn menu, but I know when the time arrives.
Perhaps it’s the landscape transitioning from shades of green to the pallet of reds, oranges, browns, and golds that signify the change of season.
Maybe it is the brisk breezes that send fallen leaves dancing along the pavement.
It might be the sight of the first frost scattering lacy borders around puddles in the pre-dawn darkness, or the sun setting earlier in the evening sky.
Whatever the signal is, I know when it is time to switch to the autumn menu because I am overcome by a sudden and powerful renewed interest in my kitchen.
For no apparent reason, I find myself distracted by visions of chili flitting before my eyes.
I start making a mental list of the ingredients I need, and soon, with any luck, there will be a cauldron of spicy goodness simmering away on the stove at the bachelor pad.
There is something about the piquant aroma of chili against the crisp backdrop of cool autumn air and fallen leaves that makes my taste buds tingle.
Man cannot live by chili alone, however, so I will have to whip up a batch of golden-brown cornbread, soaked with fresh butter.
The sweetness of the cornbread, paired with the pungency of the chili, is a match made in heaven.
The arrival of autumn changes not only what I cook, but how I cook it.
The sound of geese honking overhead sends me rummaging in my cupboards for the Crock-Pot slow cooker that has not been called into service since early spring.
Soon, I will be assembling a collection of beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, and whatever else looks interesting, and cooking it slowly at a low temperature all day.
There is something special about arriving home after a long day at work to be greeted by the decadent aroma of beef stew.
It is among the simplest dishes we ever make, and the most delicious.
For those of us who live alone, using a Crock-Pot is the only way we can have a hot meal waiting for us when we get home; unless, of course, we are visited by an eccentric burglar with culinary aptitude.
Comfort foods of all kinds find their way into the rotation in autumn.
I tend to prepare things like beef roast, which is not only pleasant, but provides a wealth of opportunities to use leftovers, thus saving time as the days grow shorter.
Cheddar chowder is another cool-weather favorite.
It is a robust meal consisting of potatoes, cheddar cheese, and other delicious items that help one adapt to the changing seasons.
I might also make a big pan of lasagne. This may not be strictly an autumn selection, but it warms up the kitchen and fills the bachelor pad with delightful aromas.
Lasagne can seem a bit heavy during the hot summer months, but it works well on a crisp fall evening.
We can choose to complain about the changing seasons, or we can choose to embrace them, and embracing them is much more fun.
Instead of lamenting the end of summer, we can look for things that make autumn special.
Reaping nature’s bounty and using it to jazz up our menu choices is one way to accomplish this.
The changing of the seasons can also be a good time to try new recipes.
I have been collecting a few new ones to try when I have some time.
Campanelle pasta with Italian sausage and pumpkin sauce sounds intriguing.
Perhaps I might try grilled pork chops with apple-pear topping.
Maybe I will give apple-stuffed chicken breast a try, or explore the mysteries of winter vegetable hash.
If we are willing to keep an open mind, there is no end to the ways we might find to enjoy autumn.
Judging by the recipes I have been reading lately, a little time spent in the kitchen may help us find interesting ways to add some comfort food to the menu and insulate ourselves from the frosty months ahead.