“So . . . you must like apples.”
Tell a stranger at a cocktail party that you’re a food writer working on an apple cookbook, and that’s the response you’ll likely get. And, of course, one would hope that the answer is yes, I do, very much. In fact, the more I’ve eaten them, cooked with them, learned their history, and studied their intricacies, the more passionate I’ve become.
Sometimes the conversation ends there—not everyone finds fruit so fascinating. But if it continues, the topic usually turns to favorite varieties—mine (Pink Pearl and Calville Blanc d’Hiver) and theirs (Honeycrisp is popular, as is Gala, with a few still holding fast to Red Delicious)—which almost always sparks memories of a favorite childhood recipe. “Oh,” they say, “My mom used to make the best apple crisp . . .”
I enjoy these conversations because it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my enthusiasm. In the years I’ve spent working on this book, I’ve discovered that apples are not only tasty, but infinitely varied and intrinsically connected to human history. They’re the world’s third most widely grown fruit (bananas are first, grapes second). In this country, they’re grown commercially in thirty-five states, and home orchards can be found from Alaska to Florida,
where the variety Tropic Sweet was developed at the state university. Apples have been a window through which my knowledge of food has deepened.
I wasn’t always such an apple enthusiast. I grew up in Connecticut, enjoying the fruit in the way of most children. I snacked on a McIntosh or Red Delicious when there weren’t any Oreos on offer. I looked forward to fall, when my mother made my grandmother’s apple crisp (page 185 in the book). We made an annual apple-picking trek to nearby Glastonbury, where a handful of family-run orchards still continues to resist suburban development.
And somewhere in that very conventional introduction, apples took root in my imagination. I saw the lush beauty of an orchard at full fruit, and understood why so much early literature, from the Bible to Greek and Scandinavian mythology, equates the orchard with Paradise itself.
After I left home and began exploring food and cooking as a serious hobby, and later as a food editor and recipe developer, I experimented with apple varieties outside my narrow circle of McIntosh, Macoun, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious, and found breeds that seemed almost exotic—the sweet yellow Winter Banana, the tart and rough-skinned Roxbury Russet. Here was a fruit that thrived in my northern home state—where remnants of former
orchards can be found in most cities and suburban towns. In fact, I often snack from several scraggly survivors in my urban Brookline, Massachusetts, neighborhood.
My own love affair with this fruit hit new highs (and perhaps went overboard) when, on October 2, 2004, I married my husband, Scott, in the apple orchard of Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine. As our guests arrived, we served them cider made from the fruit of the trees around us. At the reception, we set small wedding cakes on each table and scattered tiny Lady Apples around them as an edible centerpiece. My bridesmaids wore shades of red and rose, like the blush on the fruit, and Scott and his groomsmen sported apple-green ties. My friend Gil even designed an apple tree logo for the invitations and programs. The wedding favors? Caramel apples. Really, it was a harvest festival disguised as a wedding.
My passion for apples has shaped my work life as well. As a food writer and editor, I’ve seen how popular apples are with readers. Every fall, at magazines from California to New England, my job has been to develop great apple recipes. All of these experiences have brought me to this cookbook. I love this fruit. I love how it represents home and autumn and big slabs of pie, and I love cooking with it.
And so, for all those reasons, I wrote The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. I hope you enjoy it and continue to come back here for new apple info, how-to videos, and recipes.