:::this is the way the world ends:::

The Switch is On, Or The Coming of Autumn

There’s something strange that happens to me once or twice a year.  It’s a perceptible switch of preferences.  The switch usually coincides with the onset and subsiding of summer, starting mid-spring and usually lasting until the Indian Summer hits. 

Sometimes, I’m surprised as I skip a cycle.  Instead of a six-month turnaround, the phases last a whole year. I don’t ever make a conscious choice about it, it just happens.  I sometimes wonder if it’s body intelligence, shifting me to something that inherently it knows I need.  That doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense, though, as the shifts seem to be preferential, and not necessary.  I’ve tried to wrest control of the shift, but I don’t seem to be able to affect it.  I think I’ve ruminated on this to a few of you before….

The shift looks something like this: I move from coffee (black) to tea (Earl Grey, white and sweet).  I move from Gin & Tonic to Scotch (neat).  I move from water to Coke (especially with Mexican food and pizza).  I start thinking of curling up in a blanket with a book and hot chocolate — instead of images of sun, outdoors and cool drinks.  At Starbucks, I’ll order a Hot Carmel Apple Cider instead of the usual Latté.

There are other shifts.  Salad to soup. Just a week ago, I was craving salads, fruits and vegetables.  Yesterday we had chili, and now I can’t stop craving the heartiness of meat and beans.  I can’t even think of the lightness of salad right now.  I think it has something to do with the weather.  It’s gotten a lot cooler and rainy in the last week than it has been since mid-June. Perhaps I’m more like a bear than I realize, and my body seeks out heavier, calorie-laden foods.

Maybe foods are the clothes my insides wear.

Do you have a shift this way? What cravings leave and arrive in your life this time of year?


  1. J.E.

    As for Liz and I, I think our diet shifts more for practical reasons than instinctual though I recognize it is difficult to separate the two.

    You are right Toby, it all comes down to temperature control. In the summer we DO NOT turn the oven on for any reason. It is just too damn hot for that crap. Oddly, I think I eat more meat in the summertime. I know how to cook a lot of good winter vegetarian dishes but they require lots of heat over a long period. In the summertime, if I have to turn on a burner for longer than it takes to make pasta it’s not gonna happen. Conversely, I’ll happily go outside and build a fire to grill meat and vegetables. With grilling, the tourch’n flam’n hot heat stays outside where it belongs.

    In the winter, soups and breads both warm the house and our bodies and provide more calories than many summer foods, including meat. Also I’m a little less active in the winter so I don’t crave the protein quite as much.

    I consume less caffeine in the winter time and that which I do consume is more likely to be in the form of tea. The heat makes a person sleepy and iced coffee just helps.

    I start hitting the Belgian beers a lot harder in the winter but my Guinness intake remains the same. Summertime is the season for blended Scotch on the rocks. Winter is the season for single malts.

  2. Pete

    Think about it, it makes perfect evolutionary sense-primitive man would have benefitted from an increase of insular body fat and a slowed metabolism. much of the metabolism would have shifted to thermal regulation, extra fat would have been both an efficient way to store potential energy as well as a protective layer from the cold. perfect design. I am working on the coronado heights photo, by the way and will send it tober’s way when it is found. if not, i’ll go and take a moodier, more dramatic kind of pic.

  3. tobias

    I’m still a primitive man….

  4. Shotts

    Thanks for this post, Tob. It’s definitely the time of transition. Jen and I celebrated our paper anniversary up north, near the Canadian border, on Lake Superior. There were already some trees turning red and gold and yellow. We thought we might be going up for the last weekend in summer; turns out, we went up for the first weekend in autumn. Which was welcome.

    I go through a very similar seasonal change to what you’re all describing here. I don’t like to cook in the summer, but tend toward cold sandwiches and fresh things out of our little vegetable garden and out of our CSA (community-supported agriculture) box, which we get weekly from an organic farm near Marine on Saint Croix, MN.

    But at this time, I do begin to crave Guinness and single malt, and Summit Great Northern Porter. I also really crave stews and soups and heartier fare. We don’t ever have meat of any kind at home, and in fact, I’m on a two-week trial totally vegetarian diet. We’ll see how that goes. For the last year and a half, I have not had red meat or pork, but have had poultry and seafood. We’ll see where things go, but will probably at least keep the occasional seafood in my diet and will have turkey for Thanksgiving.

    I’m really having to fight these new urges toward heartier food in the fall and winter. My food intake is simply too much in terms of portion, and I need to find a better balance. That’s proving difficult when the seasonal urges come on!

    As for caffeine, I have almost entirely eliminated it from my diet. I only drink decaffeinated coffee and teas. This is in part because it’s healthy, and in part because my doctor recommended cutting out caffeine. I am on the very highest part of normal in terms of blood pressure, and so need to try to form some healthy habits to keep this somewhat in check.

    Unfortunately, as Toby mentions in his post, part of the seasonal urge is to roll up in a blanket and hibernate. I feel that too, but need to try to add more regular exercise to my diet. It’s difficult to do all of this when it’s opposite of what your instincts are–and difficult here in Minnesota, with the severe winters. One doesn’t know whether it’s best to live with what your body tells you, or if it’s better to try to fight nature in some regards in order to have a “healthy lifestyle,” as we currently define it.

    I do miss a jolt of caffeine now and again, and I do miss a steak one in a while. But less and less.


  5. Shotts

    I also start seriously craving all things pumpkin around this time–pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin donuts, whatever. As long as it’s pumpkin. Again, I’m trying to curb that craving, but it’s against my natural inclinations…


  6. Pete

    Pumpkin?!? I would think you could still have that. : )

  7. Shotts

    It’s not so much the pumpkin–it’s what goes into it to make it into cookies, pie, etc. that’s the problem. All in moderation…


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