I’ve been having a bad case of Michigan fall withdrawal lately. The weather in Ljubljana has quickly transitioned from sunny t-shirt weather to “I hope I packed a winter jacket” weather without much in between. It’s as though we’ve completely skipped over sweater weather! Not that there’s a Salvation Army on every corner, so it’s no so easy to deck myself out with the latest donated slouchy crewnecks. In fact, secondhand things aren’t as common in general here…at least, not overtly. When I explained the concept of a garage sale to my roommate, she said that people would never publicly displace in their yard things from their own home that they wanted to get rid of. It would be bit of an embarrassment, not to mention that people here, I have been told, are always in some sort of neighborhood rivalry to see who can make their house look the nicest. It’s not something often verbally expressed, but people generate their own ideas of what their neighbors have, including what they personally don’t own, and it is a common sentiment to feel a bit jealous of one’s neighbor.
Anyways, back to fall. As I’ve said, the leaves are starting to turn, and the cold weather is already here. This has all got my mind to thinking about the great ways in which fall is celebrated and enjoyed back home…so here’s a list of what makes fall in Michigan great:
- Cider Mills: cider and donuts, who could ask for more? Hay rides, corn mazes, the ever present scent of freshly pressed apple mixed with a hint of cinnamon and the earthy aroma of dried leaves as they collect on the ground. If I ever move back to Ljubljana, I’m opening up my own apple orchard so every fall kids can come for donuts and cider and experience all that they don’t yet know they’re missing out on.
- Pumpkin Pie: okay, this is just me. They just taste so good!
- Cozy sweaters: requires multiple trips to Salvation Army
- Tailgating: not that getting together for food and games on Friday and Saturday afternoons even needs a purpose, but it’s always fun to cheer on your home team after a burger or two, even if you only stay until half time (sorry GV, it’s just that I know you’re always going to win!)
- Decorating the house for Halloween: and I am continuously reminded by people here of how strange we really are for going all out to get ready for a day like Halloween.
- A sea of color: I love walking home to new scenery every day. The leaves slowly creep from green to yellow to bright red and eventually float to the ground, where they will be raked into a small mountain for Penny (our dog) to jump in. It’s even better to make a road trip up north to see the waves of color created by the never-ending forest in northern Michigan.
- Spice aromas inside stores: Downtown Plymouth definitely makes sure that the spice trade stays in business. Every store you walk into come October will be filled with cinnamon pine cones and pie-scented candles.
- Scarecrows in DTP: The rows of scarecrows lining Kellogg Park in downtown Plymouth, and the Christmas trees that follow, make DTP feel small and homey. I might not recognize the names on the scarecrows and trees, but for a moment I can celebrate fall and winter with those girl scout troops, elementary school classes, and local families.
- Pumpkin patches: No fall is complete without a stop to pick up your future Cinderella coach.
- Thanksgiving: Beyond the three of four servings of food that I inevitably eat every Thanksgiving, the company on Thanksgiving can’t be beat. This holiday has avoided commercialization, so it is truly just about getting together with family and friends and being thankful for the people that surround you and the opportunities that life has offered.
I might not be home to enjoy autumn in Michigan, but I can always bring a little piece of it here. I plan on making donuts and cider in the next couple of weeks, and will certainly keep you updated on how they turn out. 🙂
As another update on what has been going on, I went to a cooking class and drum jam session yesterday at a restaurant called Skuhna, which originally was an initiative sponsored in part by the Slovenian government to provide educational and cultural events to build relationships with the migrant community and locals in Slovenia. The restaurant features a meal from a different African, Asian, or South American country every day of the week, and about 40 people have passed through the restaurant in the past few years as chefs and kitchen help. For many of them, this was their first job upon arriving to Slovenia. Our cooking class was led by George, a Zimbabwean who led us through the steps to make a meal as his mother had taught him. Spiced chicken with sauteed vegetables and polenta, put together after an appetizer of sauteed onions and zucchini, made for one very good meal. George explained that when one cooks, the job isn’t just to put the ingredients in the right places for the right amount of time. A cook understands the food – he/she will ask the food how it’s feeling, what it needs. Many dishes are made with the same base ingredients, so a slight twist of spices or switching up the starch can add a new element to the meal. In Zimbabwe the food is often just one dish, eaten with the hands. Beef reigns king, while chicken is like buying one for the price of two. Everyone serves themselves, and even if only two people are expected, the cook will always prepare for three or four. The kitchen is a community, the center of life. It is what turns the house into a home.