Tasting the Season

Peaches. Blackberries. Heirloom tomatoes. The farmers’ stands around town are loaded with the harvest of late summer. Pumpkins are piled high too, a sign that autumn is upon us, bringing its own signature flavors – acorn squash, cranberries, apples, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon.

This week I was browsing the food section of a recent the Vermont Country Store catalogue and was intrigued by the descriptions:

A hint of chocolate and raspberry.

Round and robust.

A crispy finish.

A burst of tangy flavor.

Subtle tang.

Rich, earthy nuttiness.

Slightly peppery at first bite.

Bursting with the flavor of vibrant spring vegetables and bright herbs.


Delicately sweet.

Intense flavor, sweet, yet slightly tart.

Incredibly fruity.

Rich, sweet flavor.

Bursting with fresh-from-the-garden taste.

Mellow tanginess and buttery flavor.

Some of these remind me of labels on specialty coffee. Or wine. Of course, just the name of a food can evoke the flavor. Pumpkin-spice, walnuts and apples, brown sugar cinnamon. Lemon. Maple. Honey. Blueberry, Raspberry, Strawberry. Chocolate.

Discerning subtle flavors in different foods is a talent. So is describing the flavors. The prolific fantasy author Brian Jacques wrote for blind children, so his books are full of detail that rely senses other than sight. He described detailed meals. In his book Redwall, his main character, a mouse, attends a feast. “[C]ourse after course was brought to the table. Tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream and rose leaves, devilled barley pearls in acorn purée, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg.” It may be fantasy food, but Jacques makes it sound real enough to make the reader’s mouth water.

A flavor can bring back a memory. And a memory can bring back a flavor so strong that we can almost taste it. Poet John Keats, in “Ode to a Nightingale,” yearns for a vintage “tasting of Flora and the country green.” He seems to be tasting a memory. “O for a beaker full of the warm South,” he says.

For me, warm South is the Southwest. And the Southwest is Texas where I grew up. And the beaker full of warm South is a pitcher of peppery barbecue sauce, ready to pour on a slice of smoked beef brisket. “O for a beaker full of the warm South.”

Notice flavors this week. Slow down a bit, savor what you eat. What’s your favorite flavor of this season? What memory do you taste?

Wishing you a flavorful week!

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Text © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Photos courtesy pexels.com.