I was coming off of three glorious days and evenings spent with my dear sweet cousin, Michele, and her darling husband, Phil, who were visiting from the East Coast. I had taken them around to a sampling of my favorite “eateries” here in the Rose City. Some of my favorite window shopping haunts. I had prepared (what I hope were) scrumptious dinners. We had talked into the wee hours of the night catching up on anything and everything. With my cousin right by my side, we had arisen by 6:30 am each morning to prepare school lunches for the kiddos and send them on their way. We had ended the week wine tasting in the Yamhill Valley and sharing a final lunch at my “always upbeat” friend Kendall’s restaurant, Farm to Fork. (Which, by the way, I highly recommend.) Right in the middle of Dundee, I hugged them both good-bye, sent them on to their next “West Coast” stop and steered the car north, with a bit of sadness, not knowing when I might see them again. Once home, I plopped down on the couch, put my feet up and promptly went to sleep…that is until the littlest one needed to be whisked off to soccer.
Returning an hour later with the littlest one chattering behind me, trying to explain that when he swings his arms round and round windmill style on the soccer field that that actually makes him run faster, I threw my keys on the counter and hollered out for my daughter, the only one who had been at home. I found her curled up in bed….at 6:30pm. As I approached, I could see the she was smiling and blinking back tears at the same time….a decidedly female trait. “What’s up?” “Well…everyone is either at “the dance” or at the football game and since I don’t have anyone to do anything with…I’m just here.” Then she showed me a “text photo” of some friends at the football game with the message, “Hanging with my friends!” And some more tears slipped down her cheek. Since I don’t always have the most patience in these situations, my first reaction was, “Oh for godsake’s…..the drama. Trust me girlie, you have a lot more Friday nights to come in your life. So snap out of it.” Then I thought, “Do these parents not teach their children any text messaging manners?!” But what I actually said was, “I’m so sorry sweetie. I know situations like these can feel a little lonely and I wish I could get in the car and take you down to that game…but I’m exhausted.” And I spent the rest of the evening trying to relax while being completely riddled with guilt.
Saturday was absolutely glorious. One of those days in which you are grateful for every moment you are alive. The perfect fall day. The sun glittering. The weather in the mid-70s. The leaves just starting to turn. My sweetie and I kept saying to each other, “We don’t want this day to end.” When Sleeping Beauty finally arose, I could still feel her disappointment emanating through the air. I thought, “To appease my guilt, I should take her to the mall.” But I’ve shared before how I feel about malls and no amount of parental guilt would get me there on that gorgeous day. I was going to the farmer’s market. I called out a half-hearted, “Going to the farmer’s market. Anyone want to come with me?” The boys all politely declined but to my surprise, my daughter said “Yes.”
She was rather quiet on the way down, but when I asked her if there was anything she wanted at the market, she replied, “Two Tarts.” Instead of our usual routine of hitting them last, I said, “Let’s go there first.” And instead of the usual box of one dozen delectables, I said, “Oh please, pick out two dozen.” And my sweet girl started calling out her order, “Peanut butter creams, blackberry macarons, caramel chocolate brownies, lemon bars, hazelnut tassies, graham cracker cookies dipped in chocolate, carrot cake creams, chocolate chip cookies with sea salt and a Lil’ Mama on top.” When the boxes were handed over to her, I saw her smile.
Truly…like a light switch being flipped off…the next day’s weather couldn’t have been more different. Fog. Rain. Cold. Gray. Dark. I never got out of my pajama’s. Craving those warm smells of autumn, I went about turning the Honeycrisp and Reine des Reinettes apples I purchased from the lovely lady at “Old World Apples” the day before, into applesauce. Memories of my Granny, who always made applesauce from her homegrown apples, flooded my mind. Her special touch was always to add cinnamon spice candies to her recipe which lent the final product a unique pink hue that we devoured. Leaving my concoction to slowly cook on the stove, I gently pulled my melancholy girl into the living room to curl up on the couch and watch, “Letters to Juliet” with me. While an enjoyable chick-flick, the director didn’t leave much to the imagination and I heard my girl laugh when she realized she had completely predicted the entire outcome of the movie.
Monday morning, I offered to drive my girl to school. I don’t like to do it. The whole rigamarole, there and back, ends up being an hour out of my morning but yesterday, I was genuine in my offer. Instead of insisting that we listen to my latest book on tape in the car, “Lost on Planet China“, I suggested she play me her latest iTunes downloads, all of which were songs from the series premiere of Glee. When we pulled up, she leaned over to give me a big hug, gave me a sincere, “Thank you so much for taking me to school, Mom.”, flashed me one of her beautiful smiles and then, headed into school with a skip. Just one skip…she is in 8th grade after all…but I saw it and I knew the weekend of heartache had come to an end. (Now, it could have been that she was simply adjusting her back-pack but I’m going with “the skip.”) I could finally pull that “guilt monkey” off my back and toss him aside. Which I did. “She’s taking the bus the rest of the week.”
Home Cooked Apple Sauce for Fall
Adapted from Indulge, Fall 2010
One of my favorite places to turn for food inspiration is a little “free-of-charge” magazine put out quarterly by Zupan’s Markets here in Portland, called Indulge. They always highlight seasonal food. There is always a lengthy article penned by Portland’s own, Sara Perry, and complete with 3 or 4 of her recipes. I believe I turned down the corner of almost every page of this quarter’s issue. One recipe, obviously, that caught my eye was a simple one for apple sauce. As I mentioned above, I used a mix of the apples I had purchased at the farmer’s market, Honeycrisp and Reine des Reinettes, but you could use a mix of any apples you could find that are recommended for baking. Also, the amount of cinnamon called for does give this recipe a definite cinnamon flavor which my family loved but you could reduce the amount if you’d prefer just a hint. I do suggest you make a double batch of this. My brood inhaled this in one fell swoop and I had to make a second batch of it so I would have something to photograph…just for you.
10 medium apples – Honeycrisp, McIntosh or other baking apples
3/4 c water
3 tbsp loosely packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp lemon juice
a pinch of Kosher salt
Start by peeling, coring and slicing your apples. I recently acquired a Victorio Apple Peeler which is a slick little contraption that makes this step of the recipe quite pleasurable. (My 11-year old is singing my praises since it also peels potatoes and he’s always in charge of the mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.) Now, if you don’t happen to have a handy dandy apple peeler, you can always get out a little paring knife, turn on some smooth music and go about it by hand. However you do it, make sure that once the apples are peeled, cored and sliced that you also cut them up into bite-sized chunks. Then, put them in a stock pot over medium-low heat along with your water, brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and salt.
Over low heat, simmer the apples for 30-40 minutes, or until the apples are soft. At this point taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Now, my brood does not like chunky apple sauce so next, I took out my handy-dandy hand held blender and pureed my sauce into a smoother concoction. You may be okay with chunks and can forego this step. Warm or cold, it’s scrumptious. Enjoy.
PS: I haven’t tried this because I never have any left but apparently, this recipe freezes well.
PSS: Considering that it’s apple season around here, I thought I might mention that for those of you in the Portland area, I’ll be on AM Northwest tomorrow morning (Wednesday, September 29) Channel Two at 9 am making this Apple Crostata which, if I do say so myself, is to die for.
PSSS: I also want to mention that I slid right past the one year anniversary of the commencement of “La Pomme de Portland” without nary a raised eyebrow. Considering that I am never on-time for anything, let’s just say, this was on purpose. I have a few little surprises up my sleeve that I will be presenting you in the coming month, you kind sweet souls, as a small way to express my deep gratitude for you taking time out of your busy, hectic lives to spent some here at “La Pomme.” In other words, to say, “Thank you.”
PSSSS: I realize that I’m a bit long-winded today, but my baby started Kindergarten two weeks ago (more on that later) and after 13 years of having an outlet for my incessant need to talk, albeit persons under the age of 5, I’m left rattling around this empty house wondering who to talk to. For better or for worse, you’re the chosen one. Cheers!
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010