Falling for Fall: A Harvest Tableau Part 1

October into November, the end of that liminal turn between summer and autumn, conjures an abundance of sensory memory: turning leaves, roasted pumpkin seeds, and browning marsh along the Georgia coastline. When entertaining this time of the year, I cherish the utility of fall’s natural, burnt aesthetics: burlap, twine, and butternut squash, all warmed and toasted by the summer sun, and lingering memories of a season gone. A veritable reward to a dusty, dry, and long summer, fall is the swan song of the seasons; it is the precursor to a time of dormancy, of rest, of winter, when the bones of the garden are revealed. 

Autumn entertaining “falls” at the beginning of the celebratory crescendo that culminates into various large, welcoming meals rallying towards the conclusion of the year: Thanksgiving – the advent of the holiday season – and, in turn, the new year. Fall entertaining should thus reflect the casual “falling” nature of the trees, of the season’s brevity and tendency to again turn to the ground for sustenance. Simple dishes seem all too apropos for honoring the autumn garden’s findings and are easily complemented by a tablescape that combines the lush harvest of the season with the fragmentary and shed elements of flora and fauna who have grazed or grown through the backyard, garden, woods, or marsh: shed deer antlers, fallen pheasant, goose, and turkey feathers, and dried oyster shells. 

Pecans descend from trees; produce, such as sweet potatoes offering us richness in both flavor and texture, derive from the ground, uniting two realms – earth and sky. I pair these ingredients for a fall fete accompli full of flavor and tinged with the evergreen brightness of rosemary and the nostalgia of cinnamon. Roasted rosemary pecans are the perfect hors d'oeuvre for an informal autumnal gathering, as are they the delightful pairing of an orchard’s autumnal yield and garden’s herbal doyenne. For a stunning visual effect, I pour the pecans into glittering silver serving bowls, as the naturally gnarled, candied texture of the roasted pecans contrasts beautifully with the slick silver vessels.

Furthermore, a sweet-potato soufflé is a wonderfully warm way of welcoming both nature’s bountiful harvest and close friends into the home. A simply Southern staple, this soufflé combines sweetness with spice, packing a heartiness that complements the season’s cool nights. With the soufflé, a salad of autumn’s newest greens – spinach, lettuces and mustard – wilt under the warmth of a bacon and herb vinaigrette. A peppercorn and sage studded pork loin with pear chutney serves as piece de resistance and ginger apple cake rounds out the menu. The briskness these nights now bring draws upon field and flower to surrender to harvest time and garner us to table, hearth and home.   

to be continued....