The autumn and winter weather here in the UK are comparatively mild in temperature compared with the USA for instance. It gets wet,windy and damp and to go out requires some effort. The dog is an excellent creature of routine and expects at least 2 walks per day. The difference living here is that it gets light after 8 am and quite dark in the afternoon, just after 4 pm when the children get home from school.
Pumpkin carvings by Nathalie Halloween 2008
Light and candles are therefore important during these months and I feel drawn to scented candles and a daily walk in the fresh air. It feels like a time of hibernation, rest and contemplation and this year, I intend to give in to that rhytm a little more than previous years.
Dampness in the air, colder nights and daylight have a mellow feel to it. There is a poignancy about this time of year. Nature is still blooming, ripe with berries, hips and haws and there are still many flowering plants in the garden. Yes we know that it is impermanent and that change is imminent.
At the same time, our bodies change too in anticipation of a different season. The ancient chinese associated this season with the earth element. When you look around at harvesting of crops, gathering fruits of your labour in the garden it can be linked naturally with digestion and nourishment. Autumn and winter bring us back inside, out of the cold, expecting warm nourishment and a time of rest.
I find it fascinating that eating with the seasons brings me into a different way of preparing meals that are suited to a woodstove. Comfort foods; warm stews, soups and hot drinks centre us at this time of the year. Cold food and drinks are thought to deplete the spleen and stomach energy. When cold food enters the stomach it has to be warmed diverting valuable energy from the digestive process.
Some seasonal preparations:
- millet is a gluten free grain which in Chinese medecine is thought to be supportive to the spleen and is cooked in much the same way as porridge : 1 cup of millet flakes to 2 cups of water, simmer for 30 mins.
- Root vegetables can be roasted in the oven ; sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, squashes and yams are high in natural sugars and are a healthy way to indulge a sweet tooth.
- Slow cooked foods; casseroles, stews and soups.
- Add cumin seeds, and coriander to vegetable, bean and lentil dishes- this helps digestion.
- Drink peppermint tea after meals.
Despite the wet weather, I love the colours, the composting scents in the countryside and I look forward to coming home and taking up my knitting, my reading and spinning in the warm room.