Finding Joy in (Not) Apple-Picking
I became an expert at pureeing different foods when I had babies. Because, of course, I made my own babyfood (while breastfeeding and pumping for as long as a working mother possibly could). Providing them the healthiest homemade food was a manifestation of my love for them. Even if it meant I spent more time preparing their food than actually interacting with them. The freezer was full of ice-cube-sized morsels of carefully prepared pureed fruits and vegetables. (Aren’t I the best mom ever?!)
When they were in pre-school, each child had to bring in Snack for the class on a scheduled basis. This got to be really arduous for a working mother when we were supposed to make the Snack coincide with whatever color they were learning at the time. You know: Orange Carrots; Yellow Bananas; Beige Twinkies. Well, Twinkies weren’t encouraged and I certainly would not have been the mom to bring in Twinkies. Sorry kids. [Full disclosure: I loved Twinkies as a child and became quite nostalgic for them when I heard about Hostess declaring bankruptcy – I am such a hypocrite! For Hostess lovers, there is a new report that they have a plan to reorganize and emerge from bankruptcy.]
It was our turn to bring Snack and the color was Green. Hmmm. Green Beans? Yuck was the reaction. Celery with peanut butter? No peanut butter allowed. And then I hit upon it. I will make my homemade applesauce and use food coloring to make it green! I was very excited – this was going to be fun! My daughter was skeptical but too good a girl to fight me on this. I dove headlong into my project. I cooked the apples. I pureed the apples. I turned them green. (Yuck mom, it doesn’t look like it tastes good.) I carefully spooned them into individual containers. I proudly transported them and my daughter to school the next day. I couldn’t wait to hear how the class thought that my green applesauce was the best Snack ever! So? How was it? I eagerly asked. (Aren’t I the best mom ever?!) Oh Mom, nobody wanted to eat green applesauce. They were afraid it wouldn’t taste good. Sigh. Lesson learned. It’s about them. It’s not about me. Listen.
The applesauce recipe has gotten a lot of use over the years. It is easy to make and easy to improvise. I would go to it in the Fall to make use of all the apples from our annual apple-picking outing. Our annual apple-picking outing petered out a few years ago. The orchards were a zoo. (When did apple-picking become trendy?) The families we went with were growing up and busy with activities and schoolwork. And who had time to make homemade applesauce when there was perfectly good “storemade” applesauce at the neighborhood produce place I go to every weekend. My daughter wanted to resurrect apple-picking this year. She is the most joyful and determined holiday celebrator I know. She has enthusiastically gotten out her cozy Fall sweaters and has already made Pumpkin Muffins and can’t wait for Thanksgiving. My son is in the wings with Halloween decorations ready to go, eagerly following her lead. Sadly, I tend to focus on the work involved with the holidays. Besides, they were not really joyful occasions for me as a child. But it’s about them, not about me. Listen. Maybe there is joy to be had.
We jumped in the car and headed up the Merritt to Easton’s Silverman’s Farm. It was a zoo. Literally. They had a petting zoo where a bunch of chickens were pecking the life out of the runt. And the hayride had no hay. The pumpkins were small and blemished. And, unbelievably, there were no apples! Apple-picking was over. What? It’s only the first weekend in October! We bought some apples and some donuts and drove to a restaurant and had a lovely lunch out. A very grown up outing with our very grown up children. We had a great time, but I am wistful – watching them hang onto their dreams of what the holidays should be…and are. They both have a deep desire to celebrate that I don’t want to joylessly crush. Perhaps we will make applesauce this weekend. Together. (Aren’t they the best kids ever?!)
3 pounds of fruit: approximately 8-10 tart apples or a combination of 6 apples and 3 pears, peeled and cut into pieces
2/3 cup of water
½ cup sugar
1 cup of dried apricots, cut (use a scissors) into small pieces – adds tang and appealing, natural color
1 cup of fresh cranberries. Add them later in the cooking process – they don’t need to cook as long as the apples/pears.
Combine all ingredients in large saucepan. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Mash, blend, or process to desired consistency. I like it lumpy. Chill.