Spring, when she sashays in, always takes my breath away. Such vivid raiments cover her, so radiant that Joseph with his coat of many colors could only turn green with envy. The eye hardly knows where to light, much as a honey bee – turned loose in a field of daisies – darts from one nectar-filled delight to another, drunk on the experience.
Apple trees always draw me close. I suppose it has to do with the apple tree that shaded my childhood home. Gnarled gray branches jutted out from an unusually low trunk, making it a cinch for me, one of the clumsier sorts of children, to climb up high and stare down at the world, like a crow eyeballing the insect-rich grass of our scruffy lawn.
I sat there, nearly swooning at the fragrance, my eyes slits against the glare of white against pink and green. And then the summer days turned hot and sticky, the blossoms drooped and dropped to the ground, leaving behind tiny green apples-to-be, with their promise of the pies that my mother baked so rarely.
None ended up baked, as M. F. K. Fisher suggested in How to Cook a Wolf: “… they make a good meal in themselves, with cream if you have any, or milk heated with some cinnamon and nutmeg in it, and buttered toast and tea.”(p. 202 in The Art of Eating) None turned into applesauce, either, one of Fisher’s favorite foods.
And a favorite of mine as well, but only after I started making my own, which I did while living in Haiti. Small red apples about the size of baseballs grew in Kenscoff, high in the mountains looming behind Port-au-Prince. The apple trees there survive because of the coolness of the air and the diligence of Mr. Wynne, a civil engineer who came to Haiti during the American Occupation (1915-1934), married a Haitian woman, and started a farm in 1956, still focusing on sustainability.
I found a recipe in Susan Branch’s Heart of the Home Cookbook (1986) and have made my applesauce “from scratch” ever since.
Peeling the apples, dumping the water and sugar into a large pot, adding a pinch of cinnamon, and a scraping of nutmeg, all this takes my mind away from the rain outside or the tales of horror streaming across my computer screen. The aroma given off by the apples soothes me. When the applesauce is just the right consistency, I spoon some of the still-warm essence into a small dish, and I sit by the window, listening to the rain.
© 2013 C. Bertelsen