We all have one season that we look forward to the most for its gustatory experience. Summer, fall, winter, and spring all bring with them a certain “feeling,” and this feeling is tied inextricably to the different foods they offer. In this Food Fight column, the Argus Food staff takes on the ever-pressing question: which season gives the best culinary adventure?
By Andrew Ribner
I grew up in Southern California where average precipitation for the entire year is under 12 inches, temperatures rarely fall below 60 degrees, and sweaters are a thing of myth. Seasons don’t really exist, and the leaves never change colors. Shoveling snow is a novelty, and I sport a year-round sandal tan. In short, I grew up in paradise.
Wait, did I say paradise?
Let’s be honest, it was horrible. That sounds harsh, but after four years at Wes learning to understand the magic of seasons, I don’t hope to move back very soon. Spurts of cold help us appreciate warmth. And of course, the beauty of changing leaves and snow is second to nothing.
While over 50 percent of produce harvested in the United States comes from California, the climate hardly ever resembles the picturesque Thanksgiving—the pinnacle of fall cooking—that much of the country gets to enjoy. While I grew up eating the traditional Thanksgiving foods, it wasn’t until I came to the East Coast that I understood what was so fall-y about them.
Now, I understand that as much warmth can be derived from pumpkin waffles as from a sweater. A warm mug of hot chocolate is pretty much the same as being able to control the erratic heating systems of Wesleyan housing. Still, fall foods are not only warm and comforting, but also delicious and fresh and seasonal (at least here on the east coast).
At the height of the harvest, we still have plenty of fresh fruit (anyone else go apple picking this year?), as well as delicious vegetables. Squash of all varieties abound and are virtually begging to be made into thick, warm soups. Root vegetables are ready for harvest, and one can find pumpkin-spiced versions of virtually anything.
Fall cooking also allows certain pleasures that summer cooking does not. Take, for instance, the use of an oven. It’s far too warm in the summer to even consider turning on the oven for baking, and so we must refrain (but don’t let anyone tell me that—I still generally bake about once per day in the summer). But in the fall? Well, bring on the pumpkin muffins. Your indoor climate can take it.
by Jess Zalph
Winter is coming.
And with it comes a whole slew (sleigh?) of new food options that are not nearly as good at any other time of the year. While every season has its quirks and benefits, I have a warm affinity for winter foods.
Produce is a good place to begin. Some notable in-season fruits are pomegranates and grapefruits. Pomegranate snacking is a sweet, tangy, messy experience that will leave you with hands and arms covered with deep red juice and a satisfied grin on your face. If you enjoy looking like an axe murderer, this is the fruit for you. Grapefruit is a powerful citrus perfect for prolonged consumption, tart enough to satisfy the egos of those who believe oranges too sweet, but gentle enough for those too weak to handle chowing down on a lemon. (For information on how to chow down on a lemon, see Jamison Poland’s article from April 4, 2013 on “flavor tripping.”) Cut the grapefruit into slices or along its equator, and enjoy it with a spoon.
Perhaps even closer to home, one vegetable that peaks during winter months is a hipster-favorite: kale. Kale is a beautiful thing, packed with vitamins and minerals and exploding with flavor. One night last year, I ate the equivalent of six cups of raw kale, dressed with a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and curry powder. (That, everyone, is called “pulling an all-nighter the right way.”) Kale can be sautéed quickly to make it less chewy, or baked with olive oil and seasoning to make kale chips.
Beyond specific fruits and vegetables particular to winter months, winter is the best time for eating as an activity. We don’t call winter the “holiday season” for nothing, and with it comes all of the holiday foods, and the feelings of nostalgia and comfort that come with eating them.
Moreover, there is no other season where eating feels quite so good. There is nothing like warm mashed potatoes or a steaming bowl of soup to shield you against bitter cold and inadequate dorm window insulation. During dreary weather, whether you are cooped up indoors or trudging from class to class, culinary creations sometimes feel like one of the only pleasant sensory experiences.
Winter food leaves you warm within when you are cold without. You become like a large, human-shaped, molten chocolate cake. And does anyone not want to be molten chocolate cake?
by Ankur Neupane
As the last cold clutches of winter ebb away, our hemisphere is born again. There is a sense of renewed energy. Trees burst with green and squirrels redouble their never-ending quest for food.
We humans are far luckier than the unfortunate squirrel in that what we dig up is significantly more diverse than acorns. Spring gives us fresh new vegetables and fruits to savor. New desserts arise from the doldrums of winter, as pies, cupcakes, and custards are re-imagined and re-introduced to the menu. Fresh asparagus, beets, cherries, lemons, carrots, garden peas, strawberries, spinach, sweet onions and turnips all peak in spring.
For desserts, try a vanilla flavored cupcake with strawberry frosting. These mini-delights are great to have when enjoying your morning coffee as well. Lunch? Try fresh asparagus with ham and garlic. Boost the flavor with a squeeze of fresh lemon, and enjoy it outside with a spinach smoothie or beet juice. Chop up garden peas and mix them with pasta for a solid, healthy dinner. And if you are feeling extra special, try cherry custard and serve it with vanilla ice cream.
Spring is a season of new beginnings and new chances. With foods jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins, and anti-oxidants, it’s easily the tastiest and most healthful season of the year.
by Eden Jablon
Summer food is the best food. It’s not just the tart blueberries, ideal for blueberry pie, or the succulent cantaloupes piled high with cottage cheese. It’s not just the fresh tomato salad, or the homemade apricot jam. Summer food is the best food because it is the food of freedom, of the 4th of July, of beach picnics and road trips.
For the last few years, I’ve made shortcake topped with strawberries and blueberries for the 4th of July. Patriotic coloring isn’t the only thing the cake has to offer: the cool cream brilliantly showcases the in-season berries. The weather itself adds to the taste. When it’s hot and sunny outside, there’s no better time to enjoy a cool dessert with the family.
Nothing says summer like vacation, be it a day trip to the beach or a weekend getaway. Food-wise, this means you have a chance to explore delicious, portable foods. There’s a wonderful recipe for roast beef summer rolls available on foodandwine.com, but you don’t need a recipe to make a great sandwich. Start with some sort of bread or wrap, and add seasonal vegetables like corn, chard, or eggplant.
Garlic is often not recognized as a seasonal vegetable, but it does have a peak time of year: late summer. Garlic is acclaimed for its versatility, and can be added to sandwiches and salads, or hamburgers and pasta. And if you happen to be in California, check out the Gilroy Garlic Festival, one of the largest food festivals in the country.
If you’re still not convinced that summer is supreme, I have two words: fruit salad. In no other season can fruit be enjoyed so simply and so well. Juicy apricots, sour cherries, and tangy peaches dressed with lemon juice make a great salad. Heap on some vanilla ice cream, and you have a decadent dessert. Enjoy it in the shade of the pool, or head to a local park for a picnic.
Summer does not only provide delicious fruits and greens; the warm weather promotes wonderfully light food and an aura of celebration and adventure that lets you enjoy eating more than in any other season.