As my sister pointed out the other day, one problem with moving away from from your childhood home is that you forget that people around you don't understand your nostalgic references. For example, when the weather turns cool and crisp and the leaves begin to dry and change color, one fabulously fun but ludicrously simple attraction always comes to mind: Pumpkinland at Green Valley Nursery.
Sadly, no one around here knows about Pumpkinland, and as far as I know, there is no Triangle equivalent. Yes, we have local hay rides or corn mazes, but nothing tops Pumpkinland, with its hay bale and cornstalk-festooned obstacle course and giant field of pick-your-own pumpkins. Oh, and it had a petting zoo! (Nothing says Halloween like baby goats and fuzzy rabbits, right?) I can still remember the odd fragrance the place gave off: dried straw mixed with livestock droppings. Ahh, it was Heaven.
Oh, I'm sorry -- did you come here for a recipe this week?
One of the oddest parts of Pumpkinland was Harry's Hay Toss, which was, as far as I remember, a cordoned-off outdoor area filled with knee-deep hay where children were invited to -- you guessed it -- launch handfuls of hay at their unsuspecting younger siblings. My sister and I were never allowed to visit this attraction, and when I asked Bryan (a fellow Sinking Spring native) about it, he shook his head and said, "My parents hated that thing. My brother and I used to get so filthy."
But, by far, the most popular attraction at Pumpkinland was Dizzy's Darkroom, the nursery's best interpretation of a G-rated haunted house. They tried to make it scary, and honestly, for anyone under the age of eight, it was pretty spooky. In my mind now, it was huge and rambling, but in actuality, I think it was just a corridor between two rooms of the plant nursery, so it couldn't have been longer than a couple yards. I remember being freaked out by the hanging polyester spider webbing and the flashing strobe lights. (It was a simpler time.) Bryan and his brother used to pay their quarters to get in, wend their way through the haunted house, and then walk backwards to the start to do it again. (I like to imagine that my sister and I emerged from the exit and ran to my parents, whining, "Two boys in there are cheating! ")
So yes, in my mind, autumn equals nostalgia. Some of my happiest childhood memories occurred in the fall, from meandering family car rides to Lititz to "nose poke" in the shops along East Main Street to crunching through the leaves in the playground near my Mom-Mom's house. It's a season that involves change, but moving forward always requires some looking back, in my mind.
So happy fall, everyone! And happy Vegan Mofo!
This month's premier vegan offering is a remix from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe that originally featured regular sausage. However, by subbing oil for the butter and using Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage sausage (Expensive but well worth it, it's available at Whole Foods), I easily veganized this hearty, autumnal dish.
You will need:
- 12 oz bottle of Belgium-style vegan wheat beer, such as Blue Moon Belgian White (Find vegan beer here!)
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 12-14 oz vegan smoked sausage, sliced into 2-inch rounds
- 1/2 lb fresh green beans, trimmed
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 large firm apple, such as Honeycrisp, unpeeled but cut into small chunks
- 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- zest from half an orange
- 1/2 tsp dried sage
(A quick note: The only obnoxious thing about this recipe is the way the ingredients repeatedly go in and out of the pan like a terrier in heat through a dog door. I kept a big serving bowl nearby to store the ingredients in between steps.)
- Start by adding half the beer and the red pepper to a wide, rimmed skillet; turn the heat to medium-high and allow the beer to come to a boil. Then add the sausage and green beans and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let the sausage and beans simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until the beans are just tender. Pour the mixture into the serving bowl and set aside.
- Next, wipe out the skillet with a damp paper towel. Add 1 Tbsp of oil to the skillet and turn the heat to medium. Cook the apples int he oil for a few minutes until they're golden brown. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on the serving platter.
- There should still be a tiny bit of oil left in the pan, so pick out the sausage from the serving platter (I warned you this gets annoying!) and add it to the skillet. Brown the sausage on all sides and then return it to the serving platter.
- With the heat still on medium, add the remaining beer to the skillet and then pour in the remaining oil, the brown sugar, the vinegar, and the orange zest. Whisk the mixture for a few minutes, allowing it to simmer, until it's slightly thickened. Return the sausage, green beans, and apples to the skillet to coat them in the glaze. Sprinkle the mixture with the dried sage and serve.
If this dish doesn't remind you of fall, then you've never actually experienced the season. The smoked sausage recalls woodsmoke on blanket-wrapped evenings, the sage evokes late-season family dinners, and the sweet-tart apples call to mind long walks through scattered orange and red leaves.