It’s the season of the apple around here. I jokingly call my eating habits this time of year my apple diet – apple in the car for breakfast, apple for snack, apple with Nutella for dessert….The kids ask for apple cider and Redd’s apple ale makes an appearance for the grownups. I stock up on cloves and cinnamon sticks for mulling hot cider and get out the pie dough recipe. Cortlands for baking, Macintosh for sauce, Honey Crisp for munching. Miss R happily helps herself to apple after apple from the bowl on the counter. Good stuff.
I also dive into apple-ish reads.
I first read this mystery by Phil Rickman years ago and it stuck. I’m an easy sell when it comes to apple orchards but I didn’t expect Merrily Watkins, Anglican priest and reluctant exorcist, to so completely materialize when I opened this book. Hopeful, chain-smoking, single mom and newly-minted priest Merrily with her strong moral sense and awkward jokes and teen daughter Jane. Merrily has just moved to Ledwardine as the new vicar, right at the end of the fall harvest and in time for the Apple Tree Man ceremony in the ancient orchard that surrounds the church. The old pagan celebration, recently revived by newcomers to the town, goes very wrong and Merrily finds herself trying to piece together what is really going on behind the scenes in Ledwardine, all while haunted by the echoes of a centuries-old murder in the church. Rickman skillfully blends the lines between reality and superstition, history and folklore, balancing Merrily’s faith with Jane’s disbelief and the varying (and competing) attitudes of the villagers.
The orchard and cider business so entwined in Ledwardine’s history provides a suitably ancient and sometimes spooky backdrop for this book. And, bonus: This is the first in an established series. If you like Merrily (and Jane), read on!
Ida B Applewood is nine and all is right in her world. She’s home schooled by her parents and spends her free time in the orchard behind the house, where the trees whisper to her and she sends rafts down the brook carrying questions about the world. When her mother gets sick, Ida B’s world falls apart. Her father has to sell part of the orchard, the trees refuse to talk to her, and she has to go to the dreaded regular school where they call her plain Ida. Furious, her unique imagination crushed, Ida B hardens her heart. With time, an understanding teacher, the love of her parents, and her own pluck, Ida B eventually finds her way back and figures out how to deal with unwelcome changes and still be herself.
Frank Browning and Sharon Silva
Part cookbook, part memoir, this love letter to apples and growing up on family farms is a spirited read (now how often is that said about a cookbook?) about the ancient fruit. I laughed out loud at times as I read this, getting puzzled looks from Mr. K. “Um, what’s so funny about apple pie?” No, my dear, it’s not the pie. It’s the STORIES. There are good recipes here, and a guide to apple varieties, and lovely photographs, but what I really enjoyed were the childhood stories. And then there’s the to-peel-or-not-to-peel debate, which had me chuckling - although I admit that I do fall on the peel side of the argument.
Only part of this book concerns apples, but it’s fascinating. Pollan’s book revolves around that idea that plants have domesticated people just as much as people have domesticated plants. Apples, for example: their versatility as food or drink (there’s that cider again!) enticed people to spread the species world wide, giving the tree whole new continents on which to grow. The apple trees benefit by proliferation as much as humans do by apple consumption. Pollan gives an interesting history of the apple tree here, starting with its central Asian roots and including a visit to the United States Agriculture Department’s apple collection in Geneva, NY.