A Love Letter to a Fall Comfort Food

September, 2023
Raya KondakindiChloe ZhaoRuhee Hedge


Autumn’s leaves have dusted the ground, crunching beneath my shoe’s soles as a yellow bus fades into the distance. The air has gotten chilly as the season for knit sweaters, scarves, and winter jackets unfolds. Excited for the long weekend ahead, my walk home breaks into a run. Holed up in my room, wading through the mountain of homework at my desk, only the waft of sweet pumpkin rescues me from this strenuous affair. As the chilly air reminds me of the promise of falling leaves and freaky costumes in the month ahead, one thing that never fails to warm my heart is a plate of pumpkin cookies.

My most prominent memory of these cookies is how I first invented them. It was over Thanksgiving weekend when the issue of a near-expired can of pumpkin purée presented an opportunity for creativity. At that time, I was struck by a sudden desire to make macarons. What occurred then is the same as what leads to both great ideas and disaster: I combined both projects. Two failed attempts and a boatload of eggs later, I was finally satisfied with the batch I made as I stuck the shells into the oven.

Fifteen minutes later, the delectable smell of pumpkin made it irresistible to not stand in front of the oven, counting down the seconds until I could pull the tray out. Somehow, the pumpkin-flavored macaron crackers tasted good! I was baffled at the result, and left without the desire to create a filling. So, they remained shells, or what they are now known as the Kondakindi family’s famous pumpkin cookies.

Pumpkin cookies, albeit a dessert with a common fall flavor choice, are now a staple comfort food in my household by the time fall arrives, especially as Thanksgiving turns the corner. Their golden edges, crumbly sugar-cookie-esque texture, and buttery yet flavorful taste provides the perfect dessert in autumn. Picture curling up with a good book by the windowsill, watching the last green leaves turn auburn, with a steaming cup of tea and pumpkin cookies beside you. What better way to enjoy the autumn day?

Chloe Zhao

It was late October, and I braced myself against the chilly air as I took a sip from my paper coffee cup. I was enlightened — the warm, rich coffee brought out all the notes of cinnamon and nutmeg sugar beautifully. I began to understand why the drink was so popular, especially among other teenage girls. I lowered my cup and glanced down at the warm, golden liquid filling it, regretfully recalling all the years I had missed out on this delicious drink.

The “I’m not like other girls” epidemic hit me when I was in kindergarten. Just one day on the playground, a girl decided that pink was no longer the best color, and that blue was. The reason? Pink was too girly. In a cascading effect, everyone else followed suit. Soon, I began rejecting the pink shirts and dresses my mom had picked out for me in the morning. My notebooks changed from pink and sparkly to blues and grays. I put away my pink plastic gem necklaces. All the other girls in my class followed. We were not like other girls.

This mentality followed me throughout my elementary and middle school years, just now under a different packaging. The “basic white girl” stereotype was introduced, and it was understood that succumbing to it was undesirable. Ugg boots, Lululemon, knit hats, scarves, and iced coffees, specifically pumpkin spice lattes, were things to avoid because of their association to the stereotype. I followed these rules to avoid being “basic,” pushing away the pumpkin spice options that land on my menus every fall without ever trying them.

However, as I went throughout my middle school years, I realized every attempt I made to avoid conforming to society simply followed a new adherence to the rules. If I wasn’t trying to fit in with the “basic” trends often seen on social media, I was then following the opinion of the girl on the playground. In either scenario, I was listening to what others thought was best, rather than what was actually best for me.

Now every fall, I happily run to the nearest coffee shop to order my pumpkin spice latte. Not to conform to anything, but just because I like how the drink tastes. Looking back on my previous actions, I feel silly depriving myself of things that I love just to conform to society.

Ruhee Hedge, CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Of all the perks of the fall season, the food has to be the most spectacular benefit. As the days get shorter and summer habits gradually fall out of play, we come to realize that fall is a time of both completion and transition. While the transition between summer and autumn is often a time of productivity, it is also a time of beauty and shedding of the old; the end of the growing season for crops in particular. Also known as the harvest season, autumn ushers in a time of celebration for many farming cultures as they gather their crops. This time of change and new ingredients is a staple of fall culture, and although there are many ways we can show our love for the season, mine has always been cooking in the kitchen with loved ones, preparing some of my favorite autumn delicacies.

This season of autumn ushers in a feast for the senses, with an abundance of colors, scents, and textures. Since fall foods carry all these distinct traits, they create meaningful experiences for all. From trying out the new Starbucks fall drink menu to making our own cranberry jam, my friends and family all have our own traditions we practice every year that involve food.

One of these traditions was going to a farm in our old town when it was open to the public every autumn. Some of my fondest childhood memories were spent running around in the pumpkin patches, playing hide-and-seek in the orchards, and, of course, making our own apple cider. The farm is also where I discovered apple cider doughnuts, and was immediately hooked. Through these experiences, I soon began to realize that the process of transforming typical fall ingredients into meals can be a way of appreciating the gifts of the season..

As a result of this newfound enjoyment, it became clear that fall foods in particular promote a sense of belonging. Every meal during this period of time tends to be hearty and comforting since it provides sustenance and warmth in preparation for the colder months ahead. This was especially prominent during several occasions in which my family and I would participate. During Diwali, which usually comes around in early November, many of our relatives would prepare savory snacks and dishes as a way of coming together and celebrating our gratitude towards each other. Diwali is a time of spiritual reflection and renewal, and many of the customs my family follow involve the sharing of food with others by inviting them to our place. This again embraces the idea of giving, pleasure, and finding light in the midst of darkness. As I’ve gotten older, I have come to realize how symbolic food is to our fall celebrations and how we can all stay appreciative during this seasonal transition