I gave out apples all day
The carefully considered bite
The sweet crunch
Then the smile and nodding head
As nectar spilled out
Transporting by mouth through time
To a remembered paradise
Right here right now.
It is Fall once again which means it is Apple Season. For the last few years I have bought Organic Honeycrisp apples from the Western Slope of Colorado. I had not heard of them before 2010; but after eating several, I was quickly a devotee. They are sweet and tart at the same time. And they are wonderfully crunchy. The first year I bought them, I could not stop eating them. When I noticed some of the apples had rather odd looking spots on them, I found out they were bee stings. Apparently the bees are fans as well!
Honeycrisp is an apple that has only been available for 20 years, and that is young in the apple world. Since it was developed at the University of Minnesota, Garrison Keillor mentioned it in the News from Lake Wobegan on his September 15, 2012 show, and later talked about the priorities of Minnesotans in regard to politics and apples:
GK: “It’s been a very strange summer. It’s been a summer of drought. And an odd growing season. And it’s been hard on apples. And that really has hurt some people hard. Apples are one of the great pleasures of life, the Honey Crisp comes from here, which is a fabulous eating apple. So these things are important, these things are more important to them then the election and constitutional amendments and all of that. It’s apples, apples, and to savor this time of year which is a gorgeous, gorgeous time. Warm days, cool nights, the air is like wine, and the pleasure of September in Minnesota is one reason we can endure all the rest of it.”
For a time the Honeycrisp was thought to be a cross between a Macoun and a Honeygold apple, but genetic fingerprinting proved that this is not true. One parent may have been the Keepsake (another apple developed by the University of Minnesota) and the other parent is Unknown and may have been discarded. Life can give us extraordinary gifts and remains mysterious about their origins.
I made a French Apple Tart with the Honeycrisp apples from the cookbook “Baking with Julia”. After roasting the apples with sugar, flour, bread crumbs, cinnamon, and lemon juice, I mashed them up and put the filling into a cooled pie crust. Then I decorated the top of the pie with more thinly sliced apples, lemon juice, butter and sugar; and baked it until the apples were cooked and brown at the edges. What made this tart so exquisite was the sweet taste of the honeycrisp apples in both the filling and on the top of the pie. They did not need any sugar, which I will omit next time I bake this. At my Saturday Neighborhood Breakfast Club, not a crumb was left over.
On Sunday I was at the Produce Market at the Downs in Santa Fe, and it was bitter cold. I asked Ray, who was roasting New Mexico green chilies, what he thought the apples would taste like roasted; and we decided to give it a try. He carefully loaded all the apples into his chile roaster and slowly began to turn the handle. The skins started blackening and they looked beautiful. After about 5 minutes we decided to see what they tasted like; and found they were somewhere between a baked apple and a crisp raw apple with unfortunately no taste of the green chile. Next time I would roast them for a longer time and add cinnamon and sugar. Two days later they are still wonderful.
Because it is not Halloween for 3 more weeks, I had not brought any of my Witch hats to the Produce Market. A particular favorite has long neon green hair and green and black stripes while another one is elegant in purple. The year before I had a great deal of fun handing out apples dressed as a witch. It was Ray’s teenage son who said “I am conflicted” when I presented my apple gift.
So what does it mean when Snow White accepts the apple from her wicked Step-Mother? In Fairy Tales, one looks to where one enters the story. I imagine the bony hand of her jealous Step Mother holding out the beautiful red apple to a mesmerized Snow White. In the Grimm’s Fairy Tale, she is disguised as a farmer’s wife. Now, Snow White knows that she is forbidden to let anyone in or take anything from a stranger because she has already had two encounters with her jealous Stepmother that have almost led to her death. But this time the disguised woman tricks her by taking a bite of the white half of the apple while giving Snow White the poisoned red half to eat. The story says that she could resist no longer and bites the apple.
Is it that the apple has a beauty to it, a promise of sweetness, that is irresistible and that overrides any thought of the motive of the giver? Is life with the Dwarfs full of hard work and order but deficient of delight? They are these little guys who leave her alone all day while they work in the mines. In loneliness the mind has time to dream of beauty and love and fulfillment. Does the apple represent a time gone by when everything was perfect and we long to taste that once again? Or is it that in each moment, we long for the perfection and sweetness of life. Like breathing, we want to taste the delicious crunch of the apple. Was it a Honeycrisp apple?
For the record, in the Grimm’s fairy tale, a king’s son comes by and convinces the dwarves to let him have the glass casket with Snow White in it. She is neither dead nor alive at this point. His servants stumble on a tree stump, and the poisonous piece of apple is dislodged from her throat, and she comes alive again. At their wedding, the wicked Stepmother is compelled to see her again and attends the wedding. Here is what happens to her:
“And when she went in she recognized Snow-white; and she stood still with rage and fear, and could not stir. But iron slippers had already been put upon the fire, and they were brought in with tongs, and set before her. Then she was forced to put on the red-hot shoes, and dance until she dropped down dead.”
We can say “good riddance” to the supremely jealous Stepmother, imagine that Snow White and the Prince do live happily ever after, and muse again at the perfection of the apple. But that reminds me of that famous Apple from the Garden of Eden. What about Adam and Eve and the Serpent and that Apple? To be continued…………..