Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces,
I would still plant my apple tree.
- Martin Luther
At this time of year, baskets of crisp red apples line the outdoor tables at fruit markets, the cinnamon scent of apple cider wafts out of coffee shops, and bakery counters are lined with golden apple pies. It's hard not to be mad about apples.
Throughout history and literature, apples have represented more than simply a tasty snack. King Solomon sang, "comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love." Jane Austen noted, "good apples are a considerable part of our domestic happiness." Adam and Eve, William Tell, Snow White, Newton, Cezanne, and John Chapman have all had apples play a major role in their lives (OK, maybe with Adam and Eve it was really a fig, but lets not be sticklers...)
So why is it that the apple is so much more buzzworthy than, say, the pineapple or the peach? Is it a matter of the crop's ancient peerage? Is it a matter of better PR? When asked on Oprah why she named her daughter Apple, Gwyneth Paltrow responded that the name conjured up a picture of sweetness and wholesomeness. I agree.
And then, there is apple pie. Anne Dimock, in her lovely book, Humble Pie: Musings on What Lies Beneath the Crust, writes: "When you arrive and taste the joy you've created with a homemade pie, beautiful crust and all, you will at last understand why it is that the Buddha is always smiling." In fact, she dedicates an entire chapter of her book to "Zen and the Art of Making Piecrust." Other authors who have waxed poetically about pie include Karen Stolz, who in the sweet novel, World of Pies, writes "When the pie was browned to a perfect color and smelled like heaven, we pulled it out of the oven and let it cool until we couldn't stand it." Even David Mamet becomes rather blissful (not an expletive to be found!) when discussing pie in Boston Marriage: "Yes, this shall be our party. And we must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie. It can out stress as the heat of the hand repels quicksilver. Faugh, I say. Faugh! Keep your precious vapors, your fantods, your anxieties. Give me a pie." Amen!
Apple pie, which is neither too tart (like lemon) or too sweet (like raspberry), seems to be one of those rare birds that most people agree is a good thing. As Roger Welsch noted, "Some people don't eat pork. Some don't eat meat. Some people don't ingest caffeine or alcohol. Is there anyone who, as a statement of ethics or conscience, doesn't eat pie?"I hope not. I don't think I'd like them very much.
Sadly, I come from a long line of pie-making challenged people. Dr. Acrelius, a Swedish parson living in America circa 1758, described an apple piecrust so tough that "its crust is not broken if a wagon wheel goes over it." I think that my Swedish-born relatives perhaps viewed his words as a challenge rather than a criticism. Luckily, Anne Dimock in Humble Pie urges us to share her recipe for Thanksgiving Pie with friends: "The pie recipe is to share because pies are an important way of saying thank you. Like compliments and recognition, there are never enough good pies, and this one has all the wonder and delight of the discovery of a new star." It is not to be baked only on Thanksgiving Day but any time we want to thank someone or practice gratitude. One of my favourite justifications for buying pies is Carl Sagan's quote, "If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." But perhaps, this year, I will give the pie a try...
Thanksgiving Pie by Anne Dimock
3 apples (use a soft, sweet variety like McIntosh or other sauce variety)
1 (12-ounce) package fresh whole cranberries
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white flour
3 tablespoons butter, softened or cut into bits
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
· Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
· Prepare the piecrust and fit into a 9- or 10-inch pie pan.
· Peel, core and dice the apples.
· Place the apple pieces in a large bowl with the cranberries and 1 cup of light brown sugar; mix well and place into the pie shell.
· Place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade; pulse for 5 seconds.
· Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until blended but still crumbly. (If you don't have a food processor, chop the nuts by hand and blend them with the rest of ingredients with the back of a large spoon.)
· Spoon the topping all over the pie.
· Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees for 30 more minutes; cover with foil to prevent the topping from darkening too much.