Empire Apples

October 21, 2010

This post is for my mother.

There’s a farmer’s market on the stretch of Broadway outside Columbia’s gates. Mostly it doesn’t make sense for me to buy vegetables there–it’s far from my house, and I usually have too many things to do between that moment of purchase and stepping through my door. I feel self-conscious about sitting through Portuguese class with a bag of cauliflower and rainbow chard next to me.

When school started, it was the tailing end of peach season. Some people like perfectly ripe peaches, so the juices drip down. They vie for that just right sweetness. I adore peaches, but prefer them crispy. Sweet, but with some crunch. Those peaches were gone when I began going up there every day. And then apple season came around. First there were just a few, but now there are maybe a dozen varieties of apples throughout the market (along with other gorgeous apples.)

I bought a few empires as soon as they showed up, and that bite, that first crunchy bite, was pure nostalgia. Maybe it’s because I missed fall last year that this fall feels even more nostalgic than usually, but that bite took me back to being eight or nine (or really to any year between zero, and um, 22?) when we used to go apple picking. When I was little we did it for fun. The whole family would go and we would buy pumpkins for Halloween jack-o-lanterns and apple cider and donuts. When my brothers got too old, my mom and I would go. She would pick me up from school (for some reason we got out early on Wednesdays) and we would drive to the orchard. We would pick four giant bags of apples, taking bites out different orbs, trying to figure out which tree had the best fruit that year. It felt so indulgent–want an apple? have it, don’t feel like finishing it? toss it on the ground. Oh wait, you do want one? try that tree. It was that taste, the snap. Eventually I went to college and I still went with my mom a few times then, but she continued to go by herself. Of course, in her efficient manner, she had streamlined it and the whole process took less than three hours. Drive to the orchard, go to the two perfect empire trees, pick, eat, cider, donuts, home. She would parcel out the apples and give them to neighbors, friends, her daughter living with roommates in Manhattan. They would get eaten straight out of the bags until they started to soften. From there they became apple sauce, crisp, crumble.

I know this memory is not uniquely mine, but there’s something about that empire apple taste that feels so comforting this year along with the smell of the falling leaves and brisk air off the East River mingling with the cool sunshine.

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One Response to “Empire Apples”

  1. Cheryl Winter Lewy said

    I love you !!!!! Apples 2011 here we come ! Mom

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