bites of life

small bites


It is officially Fall, and New England has ushered us in with blowing winds and cold rain. Dark grey skies swaddle the city streets. There is a bittersweetness to these days, as we let go of the soft, golden light of summer and welcome in harsher times.  I yearn to draw inward, but I am simultaneously compelled to scramble greedily after every last opportunity to soak in the benefits of what good weather, long days, and lasting sunshine come our way.


Eventually, I settle down as the world begins to take on a different light, fading from golden bright to a warmer, softer glow. The metallic scent of changing seasons carries on the evening wind along with the whistling, chattering sound of dried leaves skittering along the sidewalk. The air feels cool, with light stabs of sunshine calling goose bumps out of chilled skin. What does the season taste like, though? Obviously, I think of creamy, fleshy vegetables, melty, cheesey things, and thick, warm soups. But, there is more depth of flavor than that, a mix of herbs, salt, and sweet that capture the complications of fall.

It is the tannic taste of a cup of black tea that I immediately crave when the bite of the morning air hits my sleep-warmed skin. The first sip that burns my tongue after a chilly bike ride to work in the early dawn light.

It is the sweet, warm sip of coffee from a bright orange to-go cup. It is being half awake as the front door opens, and hearing a soft voice, “I got you a treat: a soy. Decaf. P.S.L.” and feeling confused. But, my sleepy smile spreads when he says, “I know you want one, but I know you don’t want to have to order it yourself.” That is completely true.

It is the salty taste of snotty tears running down my college roommate’s face as she cries into the blacked bottom of our soup pan. The only cure for the first real cold of the season is Mom’s lentil soup, but Mom isn’t within a thousand miles to make it. With an achy body, pounding head, and spiking fever, she just forgot to stir the browning onions.


It is the hint of licorice and spearmint in my root beer float at a roadside diner in New Hampshire, the sweet syrup mixed with the dusty scent of horse hair and my own sweat from riding just an hour before. I sip slowly, wanting to prolong the joy of this surprise outing before headed back into the city. I have no idea where I am on these back roads by Lake Winnipesaukee, but at least here there’s a road map. I’m continuously learning that adult life doesn’t come with one of those.

It is the crisp-salt greasy fry of breading around onion middles and the briny scent of ocean on the dock at the end of a residential road in Maine. We planned the road trip around two things: foliage and lobster rolls. The day is damp and cool, the lobster shack otherwise empty of customers and quiet enough to hear the water lap against the boats moored nearby. I crunch on onion middles as I watch my Mom eat her first ever lobster roll, savoring each bite almost as much as she seems to be

It’s a romantic time, where each bite seems to take on the importance of a last meal — maybe an echo of some primal hibernation instinct we all still carry. The world is beautiful as she yawns and prepares herself for a long winter nap. She sheds her riotous layers of color for the muted, fleshy tones of autumn: greys and browns and shades of steel blue. She cloaks herself in frost and snuggles in among the dying leaves under the flat, close sky. Even the simplest moments take on the golden hues of autumn, and I cannot help but fall in love.

Ariel KnoebelComment