Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Apple picking time

Holly and I went apple picking last weekend, just as we do nearly every fall, only this year we got a jump on the apple season. Normally we forget to go until Columbus Day weekend, which is the last weekend most orchards are open, and then we scramble to find one whose website confirms it still has apples available for picking.

This year, we thought of it early, and we had our choice of locations. I’d never even gone in early October before, let alone late September. We felt so organized, so ahead of the curve.

And somewhat to my surprise, it was markedly more fun than usual because the apples, while plentiful, were less abundant than they are in mid-October. So we had to actually search a little bit to find our bounty, which made it more like an Easter egg hunt, more adventurous. In mid-October, apple picking is the proverbial low-hanging fruit. Also high-hanging fruit, mid-hanging fruit, and fruit all over the ground. It was fun to go at a time that the task still required a little expenditure of effort.

Actually, any kind of intrigue or challenge makes apple picking more fun. In general, it’s one of those things you do because it’s seasonally appropriate but not really all that interesting a way to spend the afternoon. I love being outside in the fresh air and sunshine of an apple orchard on a fall day, but I’d much rather be hiking than standing around collecting apples. And it takes so little time before the bags get so heavy. I also have a guilty little secret in that I have what can best be described as pedestrian tastes when it comes to apples. I like soft, sweet apples, whereas New England orchard apples tend to be crisp and tart. Intellectually, I know that’s what sophisticated apple consumers favor, but I like the round supermarket Macintoshes with the almost squishy pulp.

While I wandered amidst the trees trying to convince myself that surely I must be getting at least a modicum of physical exercise, Holly filled two bags, one with Cortlands and one with Macouns. Back home with dinnertime approaching, Holly made an apple crisp. I cut up the apples for her, wondering as I do every year while making apple crisp whether Los Angeles street gangs make a dessert they call apple Crips, but Holly did the rest of the work: mixing the topping, melting the butter, blending in the egg. Emerging from the oven an hour later was a hot, fragrant, spicy apple crisp, a perfect way to end the weekend.

Holly and I each had one serving; Rick, who avoids desserts, tried just a bite; and Tim ate the rest. Holly mildly scolded Tim for eating so much of it, but I think she was secretly flattered. If she wants to make another one, we could always go again. There’s still nearly three weeks left of the season. And surely I can manage one more afternoon of apple picking, even if I still maintain that as leisure time activities go, it’s more picturesque than fun. It’s a decent way to spend an autumn afternoon. And the apple crisp – or apple Crips, if you’re a gang member – makes it all worthwhile.

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