Fall is in full swing, and it is wonderful. The kaleidoscope of leaves is spectacular, with bright yellows, oranges and reds that appear to have been painted with careful brushstrokes. They sparkle in the trees and create a perfect crunch on the ground, forming thrilling obstacle courses for the many local squirrels. The chill is in the air but the sky is blue most days, with sun rays lighting up the beautiful campus.
The autumnal vibe is echoed in all other aspects of life. Seasonal puns along the lines of, ‘fall into a good book’, ‘prepare to be blown away’ and ‘don’t be afraid of falling in love,’ are ubiquitous. Can they pull this off every year? Seasonal vegetables are greatly venerated, with a variety of squash for every occasion. When not in the mood for butternut squash, fear not, as delicata squash, kabocha squash and acorn squash will come to the rescue.
Then of course, there is the queen of all seasonal vegetables: the pumpkin. Halloween is a serious affair in America, with preparations beginning in September. Many gardens get taken over by extensive cobwebs, enormous spiders and terrifying skeletons. My favourite décor feature is a porch stairway, with a pumpkin carefully positioned on each step. The good news is that the scale of pumpkin sizes ranges from minute to ginormous, with everything in between. This means that one can purchase, carve and display a pumpkin to suit any size of apartment, windowsill or stairway. There are competitions for the largest pumpkin, which in Boston was a beastly pumpkin that weighed 1065 pounds (483 kilograms). For those who prefer pumpkin in a different form, each café offers pumpkin-spiced everything; just take your pick between cookies, lattes, cheesecakes, fudge, pie or porridge.
As promised, Halloween costumes were impressive. I was particularly inspired by the carton of milk, Freddie Mercury from the ‘I want to break free’ video (who came to the party with a hoover!) and sea level rise. I dressed as fall, but it quickly became apparent that Americans do not understand the British pronunciation of fall. This was unfortunate and led to many awkward back and forth conversations, with loud music playing in the background. ‘You’re a what?’ … ‘I’m fall.’ … ‘Hugh?’ … ‘You know, like the season. Autumn.’ … ‘Ohhh, you’re faaaaall.’ By the end of the evening, I had learned to pronounce fall with the strongest American accent possible: I had truly morphed into fall.
Throughout October my visitors took turns to provide fabulous distractions. We travelled to the frontiers of New England and beyond. They treated me to delicious dinners and continuously washed my dishes, all of which was greatly appreciated. Particular highlights included travelling north to the national parks in Vermont and Maine, where the extensive patchwork quilts of foliage were breath-taking. There is a Maine government website that shows the current foliage conditions and allows enthusiasts to request ‘weekly foliage reports’. According to official government sources, we hit peak foliage.
Spot the Difference
- ‘How are you?’ does not mean the same thing here. Rather it means ‘Hi, I’m in a rush and don’t actually want to know how you are.’ This confused me greatly at first. I would answer and reciprocate the question, only to find that the person was already far down the street. I have now grown to understand it as a brisk greeting that requires a simple ‘Hi’ in response.
- Peanut butter is a separate food category in supermarkets. The labels above the isles read ‘canned goods, cereals, vegetables… and peanut butter.’
- Ice is a big deal. People drink iced drinks, even when it is cold. There are outdoor vending machines that enable one to buy ice packs for beverage-related emergencies. Supermarkets and small convenience stores alike proudly display signs that say, ‘WE SELL ICE.’