Thursday, July 05, 2007

instead of writing about my wife's hysterectomy here's something about apples, but don't draw inferences about my fascination with ripened plant ova

cursed apple

I have a difficult relationship with apples. Over the years I've discarded most of the strains from my grocery list – fujis, spartans, smiths, the stoplight spectrum of deliciouses – even as apple growers winnow the genetic variety in the service of volume and sales. Now I'm down to Royal Gala, with its speckled matte skin and al dente flesh, grown in New Zealand and kicked around the globe. In any half-sane world, I would not have the option of refusing apples that don't come from 10,000 miles away, but we get to live with the globalized insanity of the twenty-first century, and these kinds of refusals are the new droit de seigneur for the Western classes.

To top off the arrogance of refusing local, or even continental, produce, I find myself dealing with Creeping Apple Time. As soon as I bite into an apple, my first thought is: How long am I going to have to eat this thing? At first it's a nagging thought, a sensation equivalent to the notion that I've mistaken my own impulses – wanted an orange but somehow ended up with a mouthful of apple instead.

cursed apple 2

After a while the thought blooms and unfolds to cover the entire duration of apple-eating, such that I spend anywhere from seven minutes to half an hour wondering just how long I have to keep biting and chewing and swallowing, biting and chewing and swallowing. Tiny beads of sweat push out on my forehead, the soft-but-grainy texture of apple pulp invades my mouth, and once again I'm wondering what I ever saw in this strain. Today I washed off an apple and spent three minutes over the garbage can, chewing and swallowing as quickly as possible. Eventually I hit the point at which I felt that I had eaten enough to let the core drop in good conscience to the bottom of the bin.

cursed apple 6

You'd think that the simplest solution would be to stop buying apples, but I owe them a debt that springs from one of my earliest memories. When I was three years old I lived on Vernon Street in Halifax, a few blocks off Coburg and the section of blocks claimed by Dalhousie University. The street was full of tall narrow houses pulled up close to the sidewalk, with children tricycling up and down the block and trees sheltering the street from sun. I remember a rose bush climbing up the front of our house.

I had a friend named Bo at the time, who lived nearby and went to nursery school with me. I don't remember much about Bo except that he had a huge haystack of brown hair that sat squarely on top of his head, but that described me just as well. Years later I ran into him when we were both trying to date the same girl, but that's a whole other thing, and anyway he was a lot taller than me by 1986. In 1974, though, we were way more interested in tricycles and inflatable swimming pools.

One afternoon my mother had given us each an apple to eat. We took them out to the sidewalk, probably feeling vaguely important to be standing by our tricycles, taking a well-deserved break from whatever the hell we'd been doing. We both took a bite. We chewed.

This is a good apple, I said, in my best approximation of adult food judgment.

It's Macintosh style, said Bo.

cursed apple 3

I don't think my mother had given us Macintosh apples to eat, but it hardly mattered. The name suddenly attached itself to the apples we were eating, gave them a deeper and more rooted presence in the texture of the afternoon, and really, made a bland and cloying fruit bearable to eat, because even at age three I knew I didn't like apples much. Who knew what Macintosh apples tasted like? I imagined a vaguely candylike flavour, like caramel apples at Halloween. Even now, thirty-plus years later, apples still taste faintly of that name.

16 comments:

Schmutzie said...

That is one of the first stories you told me about yourself back in 1993. It reminds me of rainjackets.

Working From Home Today said...

My mother subsists on a diet of rice cakes, cheese and apples. I couldn't understand how, until I went to visit her in the UK and discovered how delicious and inexpensive the cheese is.

But what really got me were the russet apples, now my favourite variety. I've never found one in Canada. I think about them.

No opinion of the rice cakes.

mathew said...

i am always on the search for an apple i can really sink my teeth into . outside of being cut up, put into a pie or sauce, the whole experience of eating an apple is lost on me - i don't think i'll ever really like them.

Dana said...

Chewing is a bitch. It's the worst part of eating anything, in my opinion. And with apples, the bits of skin that can get wedged between tooth and gum are the worstest.

Thomas said...

I have to give you some compliment on your photography. Great depth of field.

Unless, of course, it isn't yours.

ozma said...

Wow, I never consciously registered the intense pressure involved in eating an apple--but I do feel it. Also, the pressure to get every bit of apple off the core.

I cut my daughter's apples (very parsimoniously) just because I can't handle her three year old apple-eating skills--and so I can avoid finishing all her chewed on apples.

palinode said...

I'm glad you people are with me on the dislike of apples. I've got a whole bag of them to get through.

Thomas - thanks for the compliment. That's my photography. And my apple.

Mr. Head said...

I'm with you on the Gala. It nudged past Fuji a couple of years ago for me. There were these terrible apples when I was a kid. I never asked the name. Huge, matte red and breadlike on the inside, seemed expired as soon as we got them. Gave me a belly ache at lunch every time. I'm surprised there aren't trees growing in the easement by my parents place where I threw so many of them so as not to hurt my mother's feelings.

mathew said...

i will say i like pink lady apples... a bit. although, i'm not sure if i just like the color of them instead.

no matter what, when i buy apples i find them infinitely difficult to eat - they seem better suited to sit on the counter until they attract flies.

Deron said...

I've always liked apples, but never really liked eating them off the core. So, for more years than I care to count, I've been cutting my apples into quarters then neatly paring them out with two quick knife strokes. It makes more to carry, but the pieces always seem so very content to stay where you leave them, browning gently in the open air. Because of this, I have never felt rushed to consume an apple -- which, after reading your post, may contribute to my fondness.

We have a tree in our backyard that grows Gala style apples. Probably not Royal Gala apples from New Zealand, but I can't speak with any certainty: who really knows how long those root systems are?

sgazzetti said...

First things first: my best to Schmutzie and to you on the whole elephant-in-the-room topic you are not writing about.

I went through a similar thing with bananas several years ago. I finally resolved the whole issue by ceasing to purchase them. The bastards.

I don't eat apples, but if I did, I think I'd be a Northern Spy man.

Abigail Road said...

No apples in this ladies life. I just can't stand them, and I don't really know why.

Sarah said...

i'm with you on this as well. have never really loved apples...i somehow manage to injure myself when eating them off the core (the hard bite pushing into my upper gums...makes me cringe just thinking about it) and i hate that they turn brown so quickly (thus making the pressure to eat them quickly even worse). plus the texture of some are horrible and grainy. that said, i have occasionally enjoyed a nice crisp golden delicious or granny smith apple. eating a few slices with peanut butter or cheese is not as bad, but overall i avoid buying them.
my very best wishes to you and schmutzie on everything.

palinode said...

I just had one today. It sucked.

savia said...

I tried to eat an apple off the core a few months ago - the first time since I got my braces. It literally took me 30 minutes to finish it, scraping off mere millimetres at at time because of the brackets on my teeth.

It was totally not worth it.

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