Fall has arrived here in Southern California. People like to joke there are no seasons here, but there are. We have to leave the windows closed at night and we bundle up in the morning and overheat in the afternoon.
I can also tell fall has arrived when I begin to get sick of tomatoes and eggplant and peppers and start yearning for lettuce and greens and root veggies. Our diet over winter can pretty much be summed up as “Beans and Greens.”
The summer garden is starting to slow down and even die. I made my last pot of homegrown tomato soup two weeks ago. I made my first pot of split pea soup last week. The winter garden seeds are in the ground and I should start seeing those baby lettuce and greens coming up in a few days.
The weather will keep getting colder and colder, the days shorter and shorter, until we finally arrive at winter. No, it doesn’t snow here, but it still freezes at night. (Full disclosure: Even though the little mountain town I’ve invented in my books gets snow, I have never lived where it snows. I have an almost visceral horror of the stuff. I’ll take a hike across Death Valley at the height of summer over snow of any kind, any day.)
When I was little, I loved the stories of fall in Little House in the Big Woods. All the food being packed away for the winter, that image of the girls playing amongst those enormous pumpkins in the attic–it’s stuck with me all these years.
And of course, there was the butchering of the pig. When I remember that story now, all I can think of is poor Ma, sweating in that kitchen as she butchers that entire pig all by herself. And the headcheese.
We bought a pig this fall. At the junior livestock auction at our local fair from a young man in 4H. Thankfully, I will not be butchering it all on my own–the butcher will do all of that for us–and I don’t think we’ll be getting any headcheese. (Lord, I hope not!)
But I can’t stop thinking about the lard. Presumably, we’ll also get the lard from this pig. How much lard does that entail? What am I even going to do with that lard?
No one these days even uses it anymore. It’s practically a dirty word. I know my mother has never used it and I don’t even know if my grandmother used it that often.
So as the weather changes and I wait for my greens to pop up, my mind is occupied with thoughts of…lard.