brief glimpse of autumn
Being originally from a more temperate climate, the existence of seasons and the extreme difference in temperatures between them was one of the biggest surprises to me when I first moved to Japan. The high temperatures of the summer in particular were difficult for me to adjust to. While there are definitely things I love about the warmer months (fresh produce, ice cream and fireworks jump immediately to mind), summer has never been my favorite season, and in the time I have lived here, I have come to view it more as a way to ensure that I fully appreciate the short autumn before it transitions into the cold of winter than a time of particular enjoyment.
This summer was the hottest on record here in Tokyo. We were hit with a series of heat waves that kept the temperatures up in the unbearable range from late July clear through until the third week of September, when the temperature suddenly plunged from 34°C to 17°C overnight. After nearly 8 full weeks of record-breaking temperatures and oppressive humidity, the last week has been a godsend. Walking down the street you could practically see the relief and near giddiness on people’s faces at suddenly needing umbrellas and long sleeves after going without for so long.
The low temperatures are not here to stay yet, and as of today we have returned to higher than average temperatures for the season, but the current forecast of several weeks in the mid to high 20s is more than welcome after weeks at or above 35; and the break in the weather has given us a perfect excuse to transition from full on summer into more autumnal traditions.
I took advantage of the chill in the air to indulge in a few things I haven’t been able to so much as think about since at least May.
Behold, my first bowl of warm oatmeal in at least four or so months: Scottish pumpkin oats with an egg white whisked in and topped with Maranatha almond butter, organic apple butter, cacao nibs, and blob of drained homemade yogurt.
I had planned to have a green pumpkin pie smoothie (another first for the season, a desire to consume pumpkin!) for breakfast yesterday morning, as I had really enjoyed the one I made the previous morning. But there was a chill in the air when I woke up, and I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I wouldn’t enjoy a cold breakfast as much as a warm one. I debated the pros and cons of both options for about 30 minutes before hauling myself out of bed and digging through the back of my cabinets for the unopened bag of Scottish oatmeal I brought back with me from my trip home in June.
I’m glad I decided to go with oats in the end, since it seems like it might be another couple of weeks before it dropped back into warm breakfast territory again, temperature-wise.
The autumn feeling continued throughout the day yesterday, and in part thanks to the constant rain and my soaked shoes when I finally arrived home after work, I decided that the perfect use for the (rare!) butternut squash on my counter would be soup.
I made a Roasted Butternut Squash Soup flavored with shallot, ginger, and coconut milk, and paired it with a fig salad and hearty multi-grain nut & seed bread I picked up at the bakery on my way home.
This was actually my first time cooking with butternut squash. We don’t see them very often here in Japan, with kabocha being the prevalent squash variety, so when I saw this particular squash at an organic store last week, I grabbed it up like my life depended on it. Given the rarity, I was determined to use it for something special, and I’m happy to report that the soup came out phenomenally and was a hit in our household. I divided it into six small servings, and froze the unused four in two batches to pull out when temperatures dip again in a few weeks.
Although the cooler temperatures are gone today, it is still the first day of October, and if you ask me that is as good an excuse as any to consider it autumn. As a reminder to myself, I picked up these on my way to work this morning:
I’ve set them on my desk to remind me that the long, unbearable summer is finally at an end. Hopefully we will get to see at least one more glimpse of autumn before heading into what is predicted to be a colder than average winter.