Saying goodbye to summer and its easy living with a love letter to my favourite summer memories. And just like so, I’m almost ready for fall.
Saying goodbye to summer is always hard for me. As enchanting as fall can be, I never want to let go of the easiness that I associate with this season. I drag my feet as much as I can, defy the London weather and change in my routine and I am reluctantly ready around the last days of September; mine and my sister’s birthday is today, which seems as good a time as any to finally embrace autumn and let go of summer. This year, I’m doing so with a love letter to my family’s house in the mountains. It seems fitting as one of the reasons why I love summer so much is due to all the time I’ve spent there. It has gifted me with so many memories and so much joy, it’s made me braver and more adventurous and even a better cook. So here’s to summer, here’s to our beautiful house and here’s hoping that I can bring some of my laid back attitude there, back here in London with me.
My parents love this house. My father decided to buy it the very first time he set foot on the village, after dinner with some friends; very late that night, a local told him about a property that was on sale; my father, completely enamoured with the place (and also completely drunk), apparently decided, at the crack of dawn, that he was very interested and demanded to speak to the owner. I’m not sure how much of the story is true- what’s certain is that my father bought an abandoned house he had never seen, on a large property on a steep hill; it was a mess. It was also love at first sight, for both my parents. My father built much of it with his hands and my mother planted almost every inch of the property with trees, plants and vegetables.
I don’t remember if I could appreciate the beauty that surrounded me as a kid. What I do remember is that even though it wasn’t always idyllic, it certainly was interesting, exciting even: there were trees and beautiful flowers everywhere; fruit and vegetables that needed tending and gathering; scary serpents, moths and warms; various jobs around the that had to be done, guests to be made feel at home and meals to be cooked.
The whole process of cooking and eating was unfolding in multiple layers, filled with smells and vibrant colours; and taste, such deep, overwhelming taste! There were tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and aubergines from the garden, along with heaps of parsley, basil, lemon thyme, rosemary and lavender; fresh eggs, yogurt and cheese from our neighbours’ chickens and goats; fish caught just a few hours before from my uncle, and the most fragrant loaves freshly baked from a baker friend. Every meal was simple, but would overwhelm my senses: breakfast was usually yogurt generously topped with honey and our figs, grapes that my dad would cut off on the spot from the vines hanging above us, olives from our several olive tress and thick slices of bread. It was long and leisurely, our eating frequently interrupted by our arguments, or paused to continue reading a book, trim or water a plant.
And it seemed like the rest of the day was also all about food; in a small village, with no shops, few neighbours and an abundance of time and fresh produce, planning and cooking meals was an excellent way to pass the time. Inspired almost exclusively from what we ‘d gather from the garden, my mom would make a loose plan for the day’s meals, which were always simple, highlighting none the less what the season had to offer: tomato and cucumber salad, garnished with soft greens and capers; eggs in a tomato, green pepper, basil and garlic sauce; all kinds of pesto; aubergines stuffed with onion, garlic and herbs and topped with yogurt or feta; tzatziki with too much garlic; spaghetti with zucchini and nuts; tomatoes and bell peppers stuffed with rice, pine nuts and raisins; homemade bread, served with soft cheese, fresh figs and sweet honey.
Many of our meals were cooked in the wood oven my dad built outside the house. Its preparation required quite some effort (gathering big bunches of brunches and burning them until the oven got really hot), but it was well worth it, as anything cooked in there (bread, pies, meat on a skewer, simple baked potatoes), tasted perfect: soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside, with a light smoked smell and flavour.
The summers I now spend there are very much still the same: a constant intensive course on how to make your five senses explode. Everything seems the same and yet so different, overwhelming, yet familiar; my childish excitement is somewhat gone and replaced by the appreciation that familiarity brings. Appreciation of slowing down, breathing in and out; family gatherings; sunrises and sunsets and starry nights; bright red tomatoes and fuchsia blossoms; the feel of rough, flat, gray stone on my feet; the tingling from spider webs on my fingers; squeezing figs on the tree to test for ripeness; the dogs howling at night; my mom’s frequent bursts of laughter; and the taste of everything. That’s what it’s all about, right? Slowing down and taking everything in? Happy autumn, y’all!