It is September 2, and summer is over. Although the calendar may tell you that summer turns autumn on September 21, in the United States summer is generally understood to conclude over the first weekend in September–Labor Day Weekend–going out in a haze of barbecue smoke. Labor Day (the Monday of the weekend) is a government holiday from the late 1800s, honoring the American worker by giving him or her a day off. I saw a news article yesterday that called out a certain irony here, given how little paid holiday the American worker takes compared to his western counterparts. In any event, it’s not a holiday that gives people warm fuzzy feelings, but everyone is pleased about the three-day weekend.
In greater Boston, September 1 is the prime moving date for apartment rentals. Furniture season, I used to call it. The streets yesterday were jammed with U-Hauls (many of them driven, Tim commented, by people who should not be authorized to drive large vehicles); and in 90-degree heat (32C), the new residents of Cambridge, Somerville, Watertown, and everywhere were lugging their boxes and mattresses. By accepted tradition–and in contrast to the Netherlands, where this would be ill-received by one’s neighbors–any unwanted objects are simply abandoned on the curb. They are taken away by happy freeloaders or the trash men, whichever happens first. Last night we attended a (literal) apartment-warming party that ended around the time the street’s electricity went out, the grid having presumably been overtaxed by the running of air conditioners. On the way to the party, I pulled the car over in haste to examine a lovely wood-and-glass coffee table, which is now sitting in my living room; and on the way home, we grabbed a full-length mirror.
Today, many teachers (including my mom) and students begin the new school year. Lucky offices that operated on a summer schedule (half-day Fridays) return to their normal hours. The undergrads who swarmed back into this area over the weekend, clogging every store with carts of fans and plastic bins and magnetic chalkboards, will find their way around campus. And I, sometime in the late afternoon, will go out looking for dinner.
I have failed to adapt out of my European habit of shopping daily for food. This has resulted in my own consternation: In Delft, the larger supermarket in town (the Bastiaansplein Jumbo) was 500 meters (.3 mile) from my door, and the Albert Heijn even closer (.25 mile). A trip for groceries could take fifteen minutes or less. Here, I can walk to a small Middle-Eastern grocery in about ten minutes, or to a large chain grocery store that I strongly dislike in about fifteen. Either of my preferred grocery stores is about 3.5 miles from home (in opposite directions), and an area with a few specialty food stores about 2 miles. I have been visiting weekly the Watertown Farmer’s Market and was surprised to discover a small local farm, tucked away in suburbia quite close to where we live. Good food can be bought in this area (though at a much higher cost than we are used to), but the spread-out-ness of everything is energy-sapping.
Europe taught me so much about food. I went in as someone who enjoyed cooking, enjoyed being creative and exploding the kitchen in an artistic mess and ultimately announcing: “I made that!”. Over the years I cooked my way through new cuisines introduced to me by our friends, and with ingredients brought home from travels or the local markets. I even wrote here about cooking my way out of a funk–which may be what I have been sporadically attempting all summer. I may have moved to the land of Applebee’s and McDonald’s, my kitchen says, but you will not find me eating junk.
This summer passed like a cyclone. In some ways it still feels like I just got off the plane. I still wish we were packing to go back, or preparing these foods for one of our Delft dinner parties. But fall is here: the season of pumpkins and roasted squash; of the first stews and of fleeces at night. Yesterday at a party someone passed me a pumpkin ale, and I thought: Is it that time? Already?
It is that time. And I’m thinking that the fall will taste good.