It’s something you’ve heard far too many times by any northerner who’s either on vacation, or has recently come back from vacation. Or, if you live in the southern U.S. (or in any warm climate around the world), you’ve more than likely heard people say it right to you. “Why don’t I live here?” “Why can’t I move here and be warm all year long?” While many of us aren’t fond of the freezing temperatures that winter brings, I realize the seasons bring about something far more interesting than year-round 75 degree weather: Meals for different moods, and excitement for new foods just sprouting from the ground.
You see, we need people in this world who are different, and who enjoy living in all climates. We can’t all live in San Diego, which has one of the most constant, mild climates in the U.S. I myself, however, know that without the changing seasons, I quickly get bored in most facets of my life. Do I love slogging through snow, sweating in the heat, or being attacked by sudden rain showers? No, but at the same time, I wouldn’t trade it for an all-year-round warm climate, or for the permafrost in the Northern Territories, either. To me, the seasons are cause for celebration, for boredom, for loneliness, and for pool parties. All of these emotions and activities contribute to who we are, and to me, it is largely because of this that our creativity changes seasonally. Is there scientific proof? Perhaps, perhaps not, as little research has been done on the subject. More importantly, though, is how YOU function during the long nights of winter and the sunny days of summer. Writers have more time in the fall to dream, poets can have haunting thoughts during winter, composers can turn jubilant once spring arrives, and more. And believe it or not, quite a few people love the cold too, and are miserable come warm weather! A bit over dramatic, am I?
The real reason I bring this all up is because of food. Seasonal foods lend a distinct voice to all of our feelings and celebrations. Just think of the foods we look forward to once the various times of year roll around. How would we deal with our cuisine if our weather did not change along with it? It’s a question I propose to both those who live in seasonal areas and those who prefer the same temperature year-round.
Besides the fact that I sunburn within five minutes just by sitting in the shade, I feel there’s just something special about eating in a part of the country and world that has seasons. I realize there are seasonal changes even in Texas, and that yes, people adapt and can feel slight temperature changes in mostly stagnant climates, but it’s just not the same as having a spring, summer, fall and winter. Heat, snow, cool air, rainy days. The variety is what I live for.
Let me bring about exhibit A: cooking. Who wants to use a hot oven for extended periods of time? Or boil water on the stove? I recall, quite distinctly, how my mother would always politely discourage the idea of baking in the summertime—even if it was for a summer wild blackberry bramble. “There’s no way in [explicit] you’re cooking anything! What are you, crazy? What do you want to do, heat the whole house up and make us suffer?” So doing any project in the kitchen that involved heat was pretty much out of the question from May through September. And as for winter foods, really, even Rita’s knows that frozen sweet sales go down in the winter.
Here’s another thing to think about: seasonal foods. What about our amazing variety of wintertime, summertime, and harvest time foods? Butternut squash soup, picking apples, the first fresh strawberries, making snow ice cream…what would it be like without these treats? Our country often runs on people buying fast food and canned goods, or on getting the occasional salad from McDonald’s. Seasonal? Yeah, right. Try making something yourself, or going to a farmer’s market to see the seasonal foods. Try a spring asparagus and pea pasta salad, beef and veggie kabobs on the barbecue, a fresh herb-rubbed whole chicken, or an apple chutney. There are so many seasonal recipes to choose from, and for those of us who live in the north, it’s something special to look forward to.
Lastly, what would family Thanksgiving or Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/your celebration of choice be without those amazing family dinners? Do you think turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc. even taste the same when it’s hot out? What about those moments with your kids and a batch of just-baked cookies, the arguing with the relatives over coffee and tea, or cuddling up with hot cocoa under the blankets? Or what about that “I deserve this” feeling of a slushy, an ice cream, or a sno-cone on a hot day?
If we all lived in a warm climate, our moments of needing something warm, of warm soup and fresh bread, of hot apple cider would be nearly nonexistent. Quite the same, if we lived in the Arctic Circle, I wouldn’t see the constant need for ice cream, picnics, or the deal with the annoyance once I hear the ice cream truck not once, but 42 times in a day.
Food may be the last thing on anyone’s mind when the weather turns nice. There are sports to play, people to see, concerts to attend. And when the snow starts to fall, there’s skiing and snowboarding, Christmas tree hunting, and shoveling to do. Our moods change, our creativity changes, and our food needs and cravings change as well.
As I sit out in my upstate New York front yard on this gorgeous evening, I can’t help but think of how much fresh produce I’ll soon be able to consume. If I had all these edibles for most of the year, what would I have to anticipate? Having everything year-round would mean little to look forward to, little to be inspired by, and little excitement for picking the first ripe tomatoes of the season. I may gripe a bit about the weather, but truthfully, and for the sake of food, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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