For some reason or another there was no school on Friday, so after breakfast I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, found boots that fit all of us, and drove the boys and a neighbor to a farm we visit every fall.
After thirty-five miles on the interstate we exited to another world entirely, as if we had flown a day's distance. I put my window down and rested my elbow on its edge, taking in the pastures of cattle, sheep and horses, the flower farms resplendent with dahlias. We listened to Boys in the Boat, set in the Pacific Northwest of the 1930s, as we drove through the bucolic landscape.
The boys’ chores include tending the flowers and tomatoes on our deck – Cal particularly likes pinching off the sticky dead heads of the petunias – still, they’re city boys. They forget that corn grows toward the heavens, that pumpkins hide along the ground. They have to be taken to the country every so often.
They took turns pushing and riding in the cart we borrowed for hauling as we discussed the merits and disadvantages of various shapes in relation to jack-o-lantern carving. Eventually, we wandered off in separate directions to pick out our pumpkins.
Abbott took charge. He picked out three – one for himself, one for me and one for Alexi – before I realized what he had done. When I went to put the large apple-shaped selection I’d made into our wheelbarrow he stood in front of it, arms folded. “We already have three. Cal is still choosing his.” I wondered if I’d get to carve my own this year.
We bought the pumpkins and some delicata squash – my favorite variety to eat – and then entered the corn maze.
As always, towards the end I started to panic that I would never find my way out of the fifteen acres of paths; then, suddenly, I did.
Roasted delicata squash
The outer skin becomes soft and sweet when it’s roasted, so no peeling is necessary.
2 delicata squash (2 ½ to 3 pounds), halved lengthwise, seeded, then cut into ½ inch slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Heat the oven to 400 F.
In a large bowl, gently toss the squash with the olive oil, salt, a couple of grinds of freshly ground black pepper, a good pinch of red pepper flakes, and the thyme. Arrange the squash on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash is tender when pierced with a knife and charred along the edges.
Yield: 4 servings