Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Apples and Obsession

Thanks so much, my friends, for the warm and funny emails and Facebook messages about the Portland restaurant series.  I had a fantastic time compiling the lists, and I now apologize for making everyone so hungry!  I made myself hungry, too.  

Fortunately, I'd just bought lots of apples at Sweetser's Apple Barrel, so much snacking has been going on around here.  The ones in the photo above are Stayman Winesaps (early 19th-century variety), which, I won't lie, I bought simply so I could photograph them.  I think they're just gorgeous little apples.  It turns out that they're also good ones for storing, so I'll be able to eat those, too, once I'm done taking their portraits.  In the meantime, I've been eating big juicy Snow Apples (a very old French heirloom variety) and  Cortlands (a 19th-century variety from New York) and Brocks (Maine heirlooms from the early 20th century that are a cross between McIntosh and Golden Delicious).  

I also made an apple crisp from my old standby recipe, mixing the different varieties together.  It was delicious, but I found that I had to bake it longer than I normally do, which is always something to keep in mind when baking with different varieties of apples for the first time.  Some, like McIntoshes, break down quickly when baked.  Others hold their shape and crispness for much longer, so pie, crisp, and  apple sauce cooking time can vary quite a bit.  The extra time was a small price to pay for the apple crisp.  It had a depth and complexity of flavor that I've never achieved in a crisp before.  I also upped the nutmeg a wee bit, which I wouldn't normally do, since nutmeg can be overwhelming, but I took a chance based on the flavors of the raw apples as I sliced them for the crisp.  I'm glad I did.  The nutmeg took on an almost ginger-y quality against the golden delicious characteristics of the Brocks.

Can you tell that I really, really love apples?  Yes, my love borders on obsession.  So much so that I wrote a poem about them several years ago.  That poem was later published in Soundings East.  It's been a long time since I shared one of my poems here on the blog, but all this talk of apples has me feeling nostalgic, so here's the poem, which is also a bit of a creation myth, I suppose . . .


I learn apple before I am born:
my mother sits beneath a tree at Green Point Farm,
slicing crisp moons of McIntosh.
She teases them from the blade with her teeth,
filling her Rome Beauty belly.
A is for apple, she sings--
Sack and Sugars, Slack my Girdles,
Golden Knobs.
I kick in reply,
begin my hungry dance into life.

Over time we make pies, cider,
sauce.  Delicious, I learn,
aren't delicious at all, and crabs
are best for jelly.
When she reads me Snow White
I know why the girl craves the Queen's apple,
heart-red, white as her own skin--
biting in, she becomes a greater tale to tell.

A is for ask, appetite, apologize--
Eve and Aphrodite stand sorry before me
in the Children's Book of Ancient Stories,
apples in their upturned hands.
With a pencil I draw them: Eve's Incomparable,
Aphrodite's Perfection--fruits I will eat
until the basket is empty.

Brown snouts are bittersweet
for blending with Hangdowns and Golden Drops.
I can pare one in seconds,
say the alphabet while I twist the stem:
Who will I marry?  K or M?
I make a crust to catch him,
pack it full of Seek No Furthers,
bake it till the sugar runs,
wait for my prince to come.

A is for apple, answers, alone.
My mother shines Jonagolds with her coat sleeve,
teaches me to carve swans and crowns,
stud them with cloves, make tarts
from Grannys, butter from Ida Reds, dry
the Packhorses and Admirables
for apple dolls with black, beaded eyes
and the faces of wise
old women.

By Gigi Thibodeau


  1. I loved this post! Can I just say you are my kind of girl for buying apples just so you can photograph them? Lovely poem as well.

    1. Thanks so much, Betty! I am always buying fruits and veggies just to take their pictures. I can't help myself! :)

  2. Oh! I knew they were Winesap upon first sight... my favorite apple since I lived in Virginia 25 years ago. Now I'm in Japan and buy way too expensive Sekai ichi.

    1. I didn't know Sekai Ichi apples, Lisa, so I just looked them up. They're gorgeous! Now I want to try one. :) I can see why you knew Winesaps at first sight; they are such distinctively beautiful (and delicious) apples!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. :)

  3. Love your photos of this wonderful looking apple! Such rich and beautiful color this has, and your poem is great!

    1. It's a gorgeous apple, Jeanne--small and very sweet. Thanks for your kind words!


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