Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September…
All of a sudden the green anticipation of May seems long gone, and the days have indeed grown short. Still, I had planned to claim that September is always nice in Luxembourg, but realise I have to downscale that statement somewhat. Let’s say Luxembourg is often nice in September.
By the way, they say that one repetition is enough to make a pattern, bringing about comments like “this always happens” or “it’s like this each and every time”. Think about it, how many times does something have to repeat itself before you start using such adverbs of time?
Twice maybe, certainly not more than three times? Think about the athlete coming in second twice in a row, whose destiny is quickly and firmly determined by the media: Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Add to that our blessed ability and tendency to forget bad things – say bad weather – and September is indeed nice in Luxembourg.
How many times does it take to make a tradition? About the same? We certainly have solid autumn traditions in our new country, like longyummylazy game lunches (just go for the signs saying la chasse est ouverte – hunt’s up!). A good place for this would be the Ardennes, combined with a walk in the possibly golden hills. Maybe some nuts will fall on your head and you can make a wish.
Apple picking is another tradition. Each year there’s a pilgrimage to the Steinsel apple orchard, people coming from near and far, and you’re bound to meet half the people you know. Actually, I believe many people go there to have a good chat and a nice glass of cider or the omnipresent crémant, and then picking a dozen Jona Golds as cover. This makes apple picking in Luxembourg to the social event of the year. And somehow, the weather is always nice. By now I could probably write a book with the title “Creative Apple Cooking”.
Then there are the vineyards. Our best expat autumn family memories will have to do with vineyards. There are very few of them up north where we come from, so it’s kind of exotic to us. And I’m not mainly thinking about the end product, but the beauty of the vines and the lovely times they give us (again, little to do with the bottled version). Cycling along them as the beautiful vines change names from pinot noir to pinot blanc, humming and grabbing a few ripe grapes as you pass by, and they’ll explode in your mouth… Picnicking in between them, free & sweet grapes with the cheese…
Naturally, the picnic spot is by the Moselle river, with a perfectly placed maple tree to provide shade and a lovely view of the vines. The vivid slow image of yourself running graciously across the field in an Indian summer style fluttery white linen dress and straw hat is interrupted by the roar of a police boat, making you jump into the vines in a not very elegant way, in fear of trespassing. Such an incident calls for the bottled version of the grapes and the peace and charm of the meal is restored.
Having spent most of the summer away from Luxembourg and experienced my home country at its very best, coming back felt like a bit of a bummer. The fact that Luxembourg is not always nice in September was definitely a contributing factor. But then the sun does come back, we will go apple picking, maybe there’ll be picnic weather still, and the annual game meal tastes great in any kind of weather. Thus our autumn traditions will help us get back into the Luxy swing of things.
And we’re intent on bringing some of these traditions, autumn ones and others, with us back home someday, to the land where the vines won’t grow.
(I know this is a standard, but it’s still beautiful, Listen to what Sarah Vaughan, the Divine One, does with the low notes:)
Text and photos by Unni Holtedahl, September 2013
Read more about apple picking and apple cooking here.