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Kathryn Finegan Clark: By the Way--Colors in an autumn kitchen

An artist intent on painting a still life in my kitchen at this time of year would be facing a giant task – and a compelling one.
First, he or she would have to narrow down the field of fresh fruit and crisp vegetables to meet the colors of his palette.
Would he choose the lush and heavy greens of the acorn squash just touched with gold?
Would he get that density of heavy skin against the glowing oranges and deeper reds of shining tomatoes heavy with juice?
Would he splash the green-tinged white of a sliced cucumber against its own slick coat of forest shades, contrasting pale flesh and the waxen surface?
Or would he concentrate instead on the early apples – delicious in both ways, as my son always said when he was a little boy – and would the artist with fluid brush strokes place golden freckles against the ruby reds?
Even so, would he catch the crunch? The magic of that first mouthful of autumn?
Perhaps he would paint the tender glow of peaches ripening in the moving bar of late morning sunshine that makes its way slowly across the scrubbed countertop?
But would he catch the crackling crispness of fresh string beans with mere paint and brush? And most of all, could he capture that aura in my kitchen that fairly shouts autumn is on its way?
I embarrass myself with these observations and questions. I am a woman who once devoted a great deal of time and thought to learning to cook and discovering the thrill of completing a challenging recipe and serving a special meal. I still do that occasionally when I’m in a kitchen mood.
Mostly now, I am not in that mood even though time sometimes hangs heavy and at other times escapes my grasp so easily as the threat of COVID-19 seems to have attacked the clock, turning minutes upside down, either making them drag relentlessly or speed into eternity.
I am now on a daily basis a woman who is more than satisfied with a nodding acquaintance with the kitchen. In. Cook. Serve. Clean up. Out.
How surprising then that the first breath of autumn breaks through that rhythm and I find myself haunting produce stands, driving out of my way just to snatch whatever is fresh and beautiful, returning home in triumph to a kitchen already overflowing with goodness.
And this year, after several years’ hiatus, the need to capture that autumn treasure and stow it away in jars ready to be popped out in winter’s chill has overtaken me once again.
My husband is drawn to the kitchen by the wondrous scents wafting through the house. Fascinated by order and production, he shakes a sorry head at my canning method – he calls it messy but I call it creative. Nevertheless, he carefully exerts his sense of order and straightens jars and lids, aligning them into neat rows, knowing our friends will share some of this bounty during the holidays.
Our children, no longer at home, will also welcome a taste of our home in theirs.
Autumn gives us so many gifts it’s almost impossible not to pass them on.