My original intention was to write about the wonderful and much anticipated change of season to the cooler weather of the fall. However, after the tragedy that has befallen the Napa Valley community, I decided to change my focus slightly.

Change is inherent in life, but when it catches us by surprise, it can have far-reaching effects. Sometimes it leaves us feeling frozen, unable to take a step in any direction, doubting what that step might hold for the things and people we hold dear.

When change is due to a natural disaster, it can bring many beautiful new beginnings. Although those benefits may be too far on the horizon to see just yet, it is important to prepare for that time. The best way to do that is to first take care of ourselves and those we love.

One of the reasons I am a farmer is because I love food and the way it brings people together. When people come together around a comforting and delicious meal, that comfort helps to steady us, to give hope and to prepare for any future changes.

Autumn in Northern California is the beginning of the “season of the oven.” After a hot summer, I am always so grateful to be able to actually turn on the oven, at any time of the day, and fill my house with the comforting smells of this bountiful season.

There are so many rich and delicious flavors that signify fall, and each of those can bring a sense of comfort. The recipe below is one that I have had for more than a decade, transcribed initially on a scrap of paper as I helped my friend prepare it.

I still refer to that same scrap of paper for the recipe, and although I now have it memorized, I still like to get it out of my old binder full of hand-me-down recipes and have it there while I prepare it. It brings me great comfort, and I always gravitate toward this recipe when I need that. I’d like to think that if I didn’t have anything else, I would still have this recipe, and I could still make this soul-nourishing soup. Wishing all of the Napa Valley community a sense of comfort during these difficult times.

Chef Demo: Pastry chef Derek Corsino will demonstrate pumpkin pie, including the perfect pie dough, at the Napa Farmers’ Market on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 11 a.m. The demonstration is free and a recipe will be provided.

Roasted Red Pepper and Butternut Squash Soup

6 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash (1 or 2 medium squashes)

4 cups tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped

3 ripe pears, peeled, cored and chopped

4 sweet red peppers, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons oil

2 to 3 tablespoons butter

1 cup thinly sliced leeks

1 red onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

1 to 2 tablespoons curry powder

1 tablespoon brown sugar

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½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2/3 cup chopped parsley

1/3 cup whipping cream or milk

Salt and pepper to taste Grated Parmesan cheese, optional Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the squash, apples, pears and peppers in a large roasting pan. Add the oil and toss to coat. Roast until they are fully cooked. Transfer the fruits and vegetables to a bowl. Add 1/4 cup water to the pan and scrape up any stuck-on bits with a wooden spoon. Set those juices aside.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, onion and garlic and saute until soft. Add the curry powder, brown sugar, cumin and cinnamon and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Add the roasted fruits and vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the reserved juices from the roasting pan and the broth. Bring to a simmer and cook 30 minutes. Add the ginger and simmer 15 minutes longer. Stir in the parsley, reserving a little for garnish.

Puree the soup in a blender in batches. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the cream. Reheat just to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnishing with a bit of parsley and Parmesan, if you like. Enjoy with warm bread and good company. Serves 6

Thea Rittenhouse is a proprietor of Gauchito Hill Farm, an organic farm in the Capay Valley and a Napa Farmers’ Market vendor. She is a member of the board of the Napa Farmers’ Market.

The Napa Farmers Market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., May through October, in the parking lot of the South Napa Century Center, 195 Gasser Drive, Napa. The third Tuesday of every month is Seniors’ Day at the market, with some vendors offering discounts to shoppers 65 and older. Ask about participating vendors at the information booth. For more market information and a schedule of upcoming events, visit NapaFarmersMarket.org or visit the market on Facebook.

The Farmers Market accepts WIC, CalFresh EBT cards and the Senior Nutrition Program (available through WIC). CalFresh EBT users can receive double the value of the withdrawal from their EBT account at the market’s information booth.

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