It’s decorative gourd season!

Mmm… the leaves are changing, it’s finally a reasonable temperature outside, and that delicious, crisp taste is in the air.

How are you celebrating the start of fall this year?

If you haven’t already, I invite you to bite into a honey crisp apple, crank up the AC if you’re in a warm place, slip into that cozy burgundy sweater you love, and hop onto the autumnal wagon with me. For this Upstate NY-er, Decorative Gourd Season is a three-month long, nonstop, straight-up holiday vibe.

Folks around my neighborhood only just started putting up fall and Halloween decorations. Of course mine have been out since early September. The evidence of this is the many squirrel marks on my pumpkins compared to others. Turns out squirrels loooove themselves some tasty orange squash! I’m not in love with them loving it, but I’ll just incorporate the marks into the jack-o’-lantern design somehow…?

If you’re having trouble getting in the spirit, I highly recommend reading aloud this classic, sassy piece (warning: lots of well-used profanity!) by Collin Nissan. For best results, put on your sassiest sassy pants and read it to your pet or non-judgmental human pal. If it doesn’t instill some spirit in you, there may be no hope.

Yes, my shellacked vegetables are strewn around my household. Why did you even question this?

Time for some squash soup. Here’s a great recipe I recommend you start with. The first time I had this recipe an old roomie, who I fondly refer to as “Koala,” made it for me. I was like “ew, squash soup?!” Obviously, I take this back. It’s now a staple for me. Just try it, you won’t regret it. Note that my roomie made it with veggie stock instead of chicken stock (what it calls for in the recipe) and it was just as delicious. Here are my own modifications to the recipe, however: just use the whole stick of butter (c’mon, you’re already to this point); in addition to the salt and pep, coat the squash halves in a generous amount of garlic and onion powder before roasting; and add a sheet of roasted broccoli to your final soup mixture (if you were feeling bad about the stick of butter, this makes it all butter better, right?). For the broccoli, lightly coat in EVOO (more evidence that I’m an Upstate NY-er at heart) and a just a pinch of pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper (if you want a little kick!). Cook at 375 until crispy, for ~20 minutes or so. Add it to the blender/food processor with your other squash stuff. Voila! Another tip: I always end up making the biggest mess when I cook this. It’s disastrous and unavoidable for me. One thing I found that makes it a little less explosive is adding all of the final ingredients to a big mixing bowl, doing a first pass mix, adding small amounts of this mixture to the blender/processer at a time, and then putting each of these small batches into the stove pot for the final cooking step. Voila, x2!

There’s an abundance of things that can help one get in the fall spirit including but not limited to: checking out fall inventory at Trader Joe’s, apple picking, or getting crafty by gluing some freshly fallen leaves to your forehead. I’m looking forward to: roasting pumpkin seeds, handing out candy, dressing up (you’re never too old!), and Friendsgiving/Thanksgiving with other fully vaccinated people. For now, I’ll continue making weird abstract paintings like this one of a childhood hangout in the Adirondacks, below.

Published by Courtney Wagner

Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

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