“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
The change of the seasons is a peculiar time.
Upon getting out of bed in the morning, one can never be too sure if one is going to dress in a light shirt or in a coat, boots or sandals.
It just so happens that those strange and moving parts of the year, where the weather is neither here nor there, are the ones I cherish the most.
For it is between winter and spring that one can feel the world coming back to life, when one is sick of all the snow and winter chills. And after the height summer, once the heat gets too hot and the sweaty nights are not a reason to celebrate but rather a reason to groan, you’ll start to feel it.
You’ll feel the tug, a cool blow of air, a premature leaf changing color.
The change is subtle, if you fail to put your life on hold for a second, you’ll rush right through it. Ignore the gentle signs and you’ll find yourself in cold and dreary rain showers, grey clouds, stormy skies.
You’ll ask yourself when the leaves did, ever so gently, drop to the floor, becoming one with the Earth beneath them, when they were all still green just yesterday.
Fall is a coveted and romanticised season in western middle class parts of society in our time. It is synonymous with plaid scarves, with boots and sweaters. With apple orchards, pumpkin patches and a certain spiced latte from the, probably, most famous chain of coffee shops to have ever existed.
Fall is also a season that confuses me. I love it, yet it is so fleeting. While the world around me seems to walk through crunchy leaves in riding boots, sporting knit sweaters and a smile, I push it back. “Later”, I’ll say. “It is still summer!”, I’ll exclaim.
And I’ll turn around, waving my goodbyes to summer, missing the picturesque fall by an inch. For the true glory days of autumn, those we see in pictures, those relying on golden rays of the sun instead of gloomy clouds, those are the ones lingering in a limbo between the end of summer and the darker parts of fall.
I’ll make sense of it by telling myself I didn’t want to join in the mainstream fall activities anyways. I like to call myself otherworldly, deny myself the pleasure of cooing over the perfect pumpkin pie, taking my kids apple picking, for it is too common. But deep down I do not want them to grow up shunning the common, I want them to grow up with open minds and a vast amount of experiences.
As much as fall isn’t to be put in a single drawer labelled “warm and golden”, one single person cannot be labelled one single thing. The crux of it, as an admitting perfectionist, is that one believes one has to follow a single straight line in life, forever and always. It is a belief I’ve been trying to break free from, daring to mix and match.
Doing, buying, saying, writing what I love vs what I think I should love. What I think I should love in a false effort, an effort to fulfil a perfect picture, one that is so flat and boring in reality, never to be truly achieved, always feeling wrong. It leads to experiences missed, life missed, in favor of running after something you’ll never catch.
If you deny yourself your personal beliefs and preferences for long enough, you’ll stunt your personality, forget who you are, yet never arrive where you wanted to go in the first place – for perfection is an illusion, a state you will never achieve, and something about your life, about the world you’re shaping, will always be off, too tedious to shape, impossible to paint on your life’s canvas.
And if I’m going to be white and middle class basic during autumn, baking apple pie and sipping #PSL, I know I’ll be different come Christmas, forgoing the practices of adding a bow into every last corner, limiting the amount of presents our children get, celebrating the season with old-fashioned practices.
And it will be OK, because one cannot be one thing only, unless one wishes to be incredibly one-dimensional. It is a hard concept for my mind to grasp, for it upsets me and makes my insides curl with anxiety, with fear of stepping out of place, with the angst of being called out as false.
Being multi-facetted is what makes life interesting, what keeps our minds flying high instead of keeping them depressed. By being a real person with multiple interests, with personal taste and an authentic character, with humanity and fault, we will ultimately fit in much better than by being an immensely curated ghost of ourselves, which is, at the very bottom, the cruel truth behind perfectionism.
It is my goal to challenge my own perfectionism this year, my overly opinionated beliefs about what I’m allowed to be doing and what not. I want to strive for personal development in favour of perfectionism, which, in the words of the great Brené Brown, makes the difference between “what will they think” and “how can I improve?” And I will strive there, towards satisfying my soul as much as my mind, even if it means feeling the anxiety of not fitting in.
I know it is a pity how Halloween candy starts creeping into stores mid-July, but for the sake of moving forward in life, I’ll try to take autumn’s hand and leap with it once it lightly brushes my shoulder this year. And by all means, the weather we’ve been having since coming home from our summer vacation is more than a playful nudge.
I’ll start by sharing this autumnal baked carrot side dish in the middle of what is still considered summer, it is rustic and cozy like the golden days of autumn I so desperately want to cherish.
It is also incredibly simple to make yet full of flavor, simply a few cut up carrots with aromatics, baked in a pouch. I guess they could as well be called roasted carrots, but maybe that’s worth another recipe on another day.
I strongly advise you to either double up your parchment for the pouch you’ll make or use incredibly strong paper, otherwise the wine will eat straight through it, ruining the effect of cooking perfectly tender carrots in a flavourful broth.
You could of course choose aluminium foil instead, but I shy from using it in my cooking too often, especially when used with more acidic ingredients such as the wine in this particular recipe.
Also, the parchment makes for much nicer presentation, creating a stunning effect when opened at the table.
This is a side dish you can truly make without much thinking, suited as much for holiday feasts as it is for adding a certain rustic elegance to your everyday dining.
Make it for Christmas, make it for Thanksgiving, make it in August just to celebrate the upcoming time of change – for we are all fools those of us who let the golden days of autumn pass by unnoticed, robbing ourselves of experiences we believe we cannot have because they don’t fit into an arbitrary frame we let our perfectionism cast around our lives.
Parchment Baked Carrots with Garlic, Thyme & White Wine
Bring some rustic elegance to your dining table with these white wine baked carrots. They are simple to make yet so incredibly delicious!
- 1.5 lbs carrots peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 handful thyme sprigs
- 5 cloves garlic left whole!
- 3 tbsp browned butter
- salt + pepper to taste
- 2/3 cup white wine
Heat the oven to 425°F. Place a large double layer of baking parchment in a metal baking pan, folding up the sides (the pan is to catch any potential leaking of juices; it also makes it a lot easier to fill and fold the paper).
Arrange the carrots and thyme sprigs in the middle of the parchment. Tuck the whole garlic cloves in between, evenly dot with the browned butter and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the wine.
Make a pouch with the parchment paper, twisting the ends together to seal it (and do make sure it is properly sealed, it would be a pity to have all the steam escape as the carrots cook!). Bake in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Serve with the flavorful broth made by the wine and butter!
Adapted from Jamie Oliver.
Serves 4 people for a smaller dinner or 6-8 people when there's plenty of different sides to choose from.