Writer’s Block: Fall Favorites

By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
editor@portisabelsouthpadre.com

What’s your comfort food?

It’s the first week of November, and ostensibly we’re in fall — at least according to my calendar. But with much of the Rio Grande Valley hitting record high temperatures over the past several days, it still feels very much like summer.

Regardless of how far the mercury has risen on the thermometer, I’ve already long since had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season (and then some) and several times since I’ve found myself craving the creature comforts of fall: hooded sweatshirts, fuzzy socks and short, cool days spent reading.

But it’s more than that: I’m craving the cooler weather that sets the mood for some of my favorite foods: hearty, stick-with-you dishes that are best prepared in a deep pot set over a low simmer.

I’m craving the caldos I learned to make from my mom (and the ones I haven’t yet), like caldo de res or pollo, and menudo. I’m craving tamales filled with chicken, beans, turkey and more. I’m craving my sister’s famous tortilla soup and chicken flautas. I’m craving fideo con pollo, the way my mom makes it with big chunks of potatoes swimming in the sauce. I’m craving calabaza con pollo, with colorful rounds of yellow and calabaza squashes. I’m craving my own recipe for three alarm three bean chili with fresh cornbread muffins, or savory tomato basil soup served with a hunk of warm bread.

But it’s not just the savory foods. Fall offers some of the best desserts and sweets, too. I’m craving Abuelita hot chocolate, more pumpkin spice lattes, buñuelos, pan de polvo, and apple, pumpkin and pecan pies.

Is your mouth watering? Because mine certainly is just by writing that. In fact, I think I may need to add a few things to my next grocery list. Or maybe next time I shouldn’t try to write this column before I’ve eaten lunch.

But it’s just so hot out. Sure, any of those foods would still be just as tasty on this sweltering afternoon, but there’s something about how a crisp autumn air that brings a blush to your cheeks when the breeze sings past you that makes fall food favorites all the more special. There’s something about the weather that enhances the flavor somehow.

Or maybe it’s just that the weather and the foods, combined, are unconsciously associated with the pleasant memories of meals past shared with family and good friends, like Lotería nights. We have a tradition in my family where my siblings, cousins, mom and aunts will gather at somebody’s house to play a few rounds of Lotería, or Chalupa, while dining on steaming bowls of homemade menudo. Those games are usually played on cool fall evenings where our laughter can be heard echoing clearly even from outside the house.

It’s in the mid-80s today and the sun is shining. I can’t wait for the first Northern to blow through, dropping the humidity and the temps to at least the 60s. My pots, pans and cooking spoons will be ready.

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