“Now if the harvest is over,
And the world cold,
Give me the bonus of laughter,
As I lose hold.”
– Sir John Betjeman.
For the adventurous and the traditional party host alike, there is perhaps no better time of year to entertain than during autumn, and therein, perhaps no event more fundamental yet adaptable than the harvest party. So instilled are the harbingers of the season, yet so unpredictable is the season itself that both creative impulses and customary practices may find welcome residence across many different hosting styles. As with any seasonal party, however, the key to success lies within the specificities of the aesthetic presentation.
A tradition nearly as old as agriculture itself, the harvest celebration is an inherently fleeting cornucopia, a compilation of the spring and summer’s excesses as well as a foretelling of winter’s challenges. The temperamental temperatures of autumn necessitate a multitude of hosting preparations, but several hallmarks remain essential for every harvest party.
Tableware adorned with patterns of rusted leaves, abundant crops, and woodland game will immediately bring forth the unique essence of autumn. For table decorations, pumpkins and squash are paramount. Amongst the strongest heralds of the season, these iconic plants have thick shells that protect them against cold, frosty mornings which may cause fleshier vegetation to perish, making pumpkins and squash a distinctly autumnal embellishment. Rouged and blanched flower arrangements can add vivacious bursts of seasonal hues while still adhering to the fall color palette. For indoor dining, candles are recommended to saturate the space with soft, warming light amidst progressively darkening evenings. Hosts whose tastes run more lavish may even consider accenting table spreads with a cornucopia of apples, pomegranates, and dates. Whether you’re creating a conventional composition or exploring your artistic inclinations, it is recommended that these key descriptors be featured to ground your gathering in the unmistakable spirit of the harvesttime celebration.
A Bevy of Beverages & Mouthwatering Meals
Given fall’s fickle climate and the noticeable disparity between afternoon and evening temperatures, it is best to prepare both hot and cold beverages for all occasions. Chilled wines, stout beers, and cocktails on the rocks can prove remarkably effective refreshments during those unseasonably hot periods in early autumn. Of course, fall is not without its bouts of wintry chill; heated cocktails like the Hot Toddy, spiked hot apple cider, or mulled wine will keep your guests cozy and comfortable against winter’s advance. Whatever atmosphere the day may bring, it is always recommended to serve beer and cocktails first, followed by the pairing of wine and dinner.
Harvest parties innately confer an almost overwhelming multitude of possible dining opportunities, but again, the soul of the fall festivity lies in the particulars. Pumpkins and squash are not only tabletop essentials but also fantastic cooking options; consider that butternut squash soup and pumpkin-stuffed ravioli are just two in a myriad of delectable dishes that can be derived from these versatile gourds. Against the encroachment of winter’s freeze, woodland game like roasted chicken, maple-glazed quail, or duck confit make for essential entrees, perhaps served alongside the collagelike harvest salad or vegetable soup. For uniquely autumnal desserts, pecan and pumpkin pies are sumptuously sweet options that can be served hot or at room temperature if the lingering heat of summer persists (either way, a dollop of vanilla ice cream is always a welcome pairing). Finally, hazelnut coffee and cinnamon spice tea will cap off the evening’s indulgences with a warmly gratifying punctuation mark.
When the last bits of the harvest meal have been savored and spent, when the candles have dwindled and dimmed, when autumn’s bittersweet grip has loosened and left, the memories of your successful gathering will yet persist, unceasingly.
Taste of Home – 50 Recipes to Make the Most of the Fall Harvest