About four years ago, I went apple-picking for the first time and it changed the way I looked at fruit.
I'd picked strawberries off bushes in Maryland. I'd picked wild blackberries in Massachusetts brambles, purple stains on my face disguised as violet freckles. I was familiar with the greedy gratification of living hand to mouth in the nice way, the way of seeing something sweet and eating it thoughtlessly.
But my first time in an actual working orchard was a fully sensual experience, one I've wanted to build on since but hadn't committed to making the time. When J decided to come in for a long weekend after some busybusy work weeks for both of us, we put it on the calendars immediately. After all, that's how we communicate, as kitchen-lovers and people of pie.
The day was not a traditionally pretty one. It was gray. It was wet. It was cool. I admit that J caught me pouting every time a raindrop hit the windshield as we drove north. That said, it was fall. It was very fall. And did we not have scarves? And hats? And a Culver's drive-thru?
For those of you who remain uninitiated to the Midwestern fantasma known as Culver's, there are really only two basics. #1 They call their burgers "butter-burgers." Guess why. #2 Fried cheese curds. That would be slightly battered nuggets of salty cheese. Once a year. Don't push that either because your heart might go all kinds of Independence Day due to overly gleeful arteries. We felt much better after that. Seriously- look at that man's face. The amateur might see his patient twinkle and deep dimples as a wordless expression of love, affection and mutual understanding toward the photographer. I know better and I do not fault him for this.
We had junk food and we had a plan. A plan that apparently involved a $40 plastic bag of apples.
This is me. This is me eating my way through a wet orchard, plucking pretty orbs off the trees and eating them. Both because never will an apple taste as good as it does straight off the tree in early October when it's just finished raining and because orchards less than 3 hours outside of major cities charge tourist prices to PICK YOUR OWN APPLES.
When I saw the small plastic bag assigned to us and noted the price, I was appalled. Not because I'm naturally all that frugal (getting better) but because I was there to do it myself and probably buy cider and other goodies too so try not to rip me off from the outset.
It is very lucky that J finds it enchanting when get all Huffy McTerrier Don'tWrongMe. So when you watch the video at the end of this post, try not to judge me too harshly. I swear, I've been carrying a tote bag as a purse for at least the last month and a half and it just happened to come in handy. I have a strong if altered sense of justice.
We'll get there though. J and I munched and crunched and sploshed our way all through the orchard. We even came across a lovely pumpkin patch, the namesake of the boots that saved me last winter. Pumpkin the boots and Tangerine the mixer. Sensing a pattern?
By the time we got back to the Gala aisle, we were alone and faced with an embarrassment of apple riches. Trees that were bursting at the branch to rain apples down upon us. Each piping up to become turnovers, pies, compotes and candied. It was divine.
When our plastic bag was heavy and I was inexplicably walking a little lopsidedly, we headed in. In to buy off my guilt with ciders and apple butter and decorative gourds and two of the most beautiful carving pumpkins I've ever seen. And thank God I brought the muscle with me because those buddies were heavy. I am considering doing lunges with them even as we speak.
So we drove home. A pit stop for relevant kitchen goodies and one for hugs at J's mom's house. Then we were home to take a good look at our bounty. You've never seen me so possessed as I was figuring out the price per apple. Lining them up one by one and polishing them. My precious'.
But even as I arranged them in bowls and gazed at them lovingly, I knew that the price wasn't at all the point in this case. $40 is taking a cab to the airport when you could have taken the train. $40 is the cheap blouse that falls apart in the washer. But a full afternoon of rosy cheeks and rain and mud and the kissing of fruit as it's pulled from the tree? Of my pointing and J reaching to get that big, glossy one up near the top? $40 of potential for gifts of pie and pork tenderloin? That is $40 well spent.
And man alive did those apples deliver. Golden Delicious, Jonathon, Gala and McIntosh. Perhaps one Empire. All in this pie. This pie that maybe could have used a few more minutes but don't worry because that aged white cheddar I grated into the crust? Melted like butter. And we were hungry with laughter from watching the improvised concert of the ages unfold in Lisa and Dave's new living room.
And no complaints from Jaimeson when it was warmed up with fresh coffee this morning. Because when you make a man a pie, less than two slices would be against the rules. So here you are, the vLog report of the Good Bad Apples. Now who has a good recipe for applesauce?
The last word, per usual, belongs to HC. The quintessential Halloween cat on her golden stairs, flanked by our two perfect pumpkins this afternoon.