Among the things that I like about the Fall in Vermont—and, by the way, what is there not to like—is the harvest of apples. It is true that you can get apples at the grocery store all year long and that there are hybrids that almost have the taste and, above all, the texture of a fat Macintosh picked right off the tree, polished a little on your sleeve and then bitten into aggressively enough to produce a loud, satisfying crunching sound.
But like the philosopher once said, “Just as good … isn’t.”
I tend to be immoderate when apples are in season. I’ll hit a pick-and-pay orchard, fill a bag and think I have enough for a week and three days later, I’m out. So I’ll step outside and pick a few of the blemished, but still delicious, apples off one of the trees behind the house.
I suppose I am a little excessive in my appetite for fresh, local apples but then, to quote another philosopher, “If I can’t get too much of a thing, then I don’t want any at all.”
When it comes to apples I am, in one regard, not just a bit excessive but downright strange. At least according to my wife and daughters. And who, I ask you, would know better?
Anyway, what they find a bit unorthodox is the fact that I eat the entire apple. When I’m done there is no core. Nothing is wasted.
I don’t do this, however, out of some ecological impulse. I’m sure apple cores can be disposed of in ways that not only do not harm the environment but benefit it. An apple core is not hazardous. It doesn’t require special handling. Just throw the thing on the ground, which is where lots and lots of fully ripe apples wind up, without anything ever taking a bite from them.
In our back yard, the deer stop in every evening during apple season to feed on the drops. Our resident grouse, when we have one, shows up in the early, grey hours of the morning to peck at them. And, on occasion, the bear that has been about in these parts for the last couple of years will come to the apple trees and do a real job, eating everything but the tree itself.
Still, it does seem like I can claim virtue for my habit, rather than just passing it off as one more eccentricity. According to a magazine story I read recently, I am doing the right and proper thing by eating the whole apple.
I’m a skeptic when it comes to the food evangelists, for whom everything, it seems, is either bad for you or, in some cases, good for you. Which can be worse. Does anyone remember the “food pyramid.” Eat carbs, we were told. Avoid fats and red meat and … well, you know the rest. We packed away the pasta and pretty soon, everyone was fat.
That is an oversimplification. But then, so is just about every pronouncement about food and nutrition these days. Eating and food are subjects so loaded down with cautions and judgmental pronouncements that it is hard to work up much of an appetite. Somehow we have gotten to a place where there is a moral imperative to eat kale. And if you should drink a milkshake, then there is nothing left for it but to go out and kill yourself.
Anyway, according to this “health journalist,” the “right” way to eat an apple was the way I had been doing it. Core and all. His argument came down, pretty much, to this: Not eating the core is wasteful. The old, “clear your plate, there are people in China who are starving.”
Well, the people in China are seemingly doing fine and in Vermont, we have more apples than we can eat. So many in some years that even the deer can’t finish them all. So they rot on the ground, which is probably good for the soil. And if it isn’t, so what. It can’t possibly hurt anything.
But much as I hate to go against the food police, I can’t honestly recommend eating apple cores. I started doing it not because I am high minded about eating apples (or anything else), but just because I am lazy and didn’t feel like looking around for a place to discard a gnawed up old apple core. Easier to just eat it. After a while, it became a habit. Like absent mindedly cracking your knuckles.
There are problems, however, attached with eating the whole apple—core and all. The fibrous material in the core has a way of getting in between your teeth where it is the devil to get out. Also, the seeds have a bitter taste.And the only way to get rid of it is to eat another apple. ◊
Geoffrey Norman is a Dorset author and a regular columnist for STRATTON MAGAZINE.