When I lived in Bavaria, autumn was my favorite season of the year. As the leaves on the trees changed color, the mountains were blanketed with a vibrant patchwork of gold, red, yellow, and orange, outlined against a background of deep green conifers. The light changed, too, from the bright sunshine of summer to the more mellow, golden luminescence of fall. No wonder that Germans call this time of year “Golden Autumn”.
With the arrival of cooler air, people seem more energetic after the lazy days of summer. Kids start back to school. Store windows sport the latest fashions in sweaters and coats. Pastry shops shift from selling fresh fruit and berry tortes to creamy cakes filled with thick jams and covered with toasted nuts. Restaurants change their menus to fit the season, offering hearty soups, wild game with rich sauces, root vegetables, and comforting desserts to counter the chill in the air. Autumn is also prime hunting season in Central Europe—for wild game such as deer, boar, geese, and ducks, as well as for the myriad mushrooms that seem to pop up overnight near the roots of trees or in other dark, damp, secret places on the forest floor. Cooks make good use of these timely ingredients, nature’s last bounty before the chill of winter reduces the fresh foods available until the awakening of spring.