There is a touch of change in the wind. While not quite sweater weather, this subtle shift flirts with us in the form of cooler breezes, shorter days, and hints of autumn in the vegetable distribution at Restoration Farm.
On the long table beneath the distribution tent, there is a crate of butternut squash that stands out among the greens, peppers and dwindling heirloom tomatoes of summer. I wait for this moment each growing season. I love the smooth, buff colored skin, and the silky orange flesh of butternut squash. It is sturdier fare for colder weather and there are rich soups and thick stews soon to be enjoyed.
While I typically reserve squash for savory dishes, I decide to get a little adventurous and turn the first butternut squash of the season into a dessert for the Autumn Pot Luck at Restoration Farm. I take a reliable pumpkin pie recipe and swap out the pumpkin for fresh butternut squash puree.
I add a wreath of pastry autumn leaves to the piecrust to signal the start of a new season, and use roasted cinnamon and ginger spices in place of the traditional pantry variety.
I like the fact that my offering for the Pot Luck actually comes from the fields.
At Restoration Farm there are all types of volunteers, and the annual Pot Luck dinners in the field are when everyone pitches in. Members carry platters, tote bags and covered dishes to the field by the historic Red Barn.
The food is arranged on a long sequence of tables and the whole community lines up to fill their plates. There are salads, savory pastries and a Spanish Tortilla from my blogging friend Natalia whom I meet face-to-face for the first time.
A jazz trio adds a little rhythm to the festivities. There is color everywhere. Blue sky, a colorful selection of food and color in the sound of the music.
I grab a seat with Head Grower Caroline Fanning’s grandparents, George and Arline Garbarini. As always, George has brought his Iowa City Coffee Cake and it is particularly tasty this evening.
Caroline’s dad Adrian is always very complimentary of my culinary contributions. He really likes the butternut squash pie and reminds me to get a slice.
The custard is the color of caramel, and it is light and fluffy with a hint of rich, warm spices. It’s a good thing I manage to get a taste, because within minutes, the pie has vanished. There aren’t a lot of leftovers at these dinners.
During the meal, the sky quickly turns a dark and threatening gray and raindrops invade our celebration. But farmers take rain in stride, because rain makes things grow. George is nonchalant. “When we’re working in the fields and it rains, we just keep working,” he says casually. But, the rain soon grows steady and many of us are forced to retreat to the Red Barn for shelter.
As soon as the shower passes, people are out again in the field, chatting, eating and dancing to the jazz music. Even some passing rain does nothing to dampen spirits or dilute the colors of autumn that now infuse Restoration Farm.
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