Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apple Days

It’s a morning for having the lights on inside. 

Gray sky hints at the kind of cloudiness we hope will bring rain.

Precipitation is way overdue. 

We’re told to water our trees before winter. We’ll have to get going at that. Rain gauges have been practically empty since June.

We intended to make a country drive for apples last week. We got busy with other things and now will wait for a prettier day.

Our apple trip is in the future but we did attend Apple Days in a nearby town over the weekend. The big turnout, as happens every year, adds to the community feel.

The closed-off streets are lined with table after table of items for sale. This assemblage of creativity makes me realize that, if asked what I’m good at, my first and most telling answer is that I’m good at spelling.

Appreciation would be my second reply. It got well used at the apple days festival. I admire the ability and stick-to-it attitudes that have gotten the exhibitors here. 

It takes gumption and patience to stand with your product in front of a passing audience of potential buyers. You accept the vagaries of weather (ideal this time) and interest not always registering on our faces.

With apple harvest in full swing we’re squarely in apple dessert time. It's a good time of the year.

Hot apple pie cooling on a trivet is the picture that comes to mind. My apple cravings, if truth be told, run more along the line of cobblers, cake and even applesauce bread.

Apples remind me of the good cooks we can all name who take the annual crop and come up with family-pleasing specialties.

While my mom has the corner on apple pie there’s a friend from my young married days who stands out when it comes to applesauce bread.

Edna was our neighbor across the street. She was a widow. She may have been in her eighties. A specific age is irrelevant when you're young. Everyone, after all, is older than you.

Her married daughter lived out of state. She was alone except for a brother and his wife who were in town.

She was interesting to know. She had a droll wit which inserted a twist of humor into most of our conversations.

She had Welsh in her background along with German and English. She had a love for horses such as the fine breed her brother raised.

She was a storyteller. She talked about her town which was a career relocation for my husband and me. She drew back the curtains on the eras previous to our arrival.

She and her husband as young marrieds - as Al and I were at the time - had been members of the Silver Bow Dance Club.

The name struck me as young, lively and happy-go-lucky. This would have been the golden Twenties, the  Gatsby years, the boom times before the stock market crashed.

Small town living could be very secure. Good friends and comfortable events could lend a country club atmosphere to your lifestyle. If you fit in the fit was very cozy indeed.

Edna was shaped by her small town and lived her decades almost entirely within those boundaries. The place defined her but didn’t confine her.

She liked to talk about trips she’d taken. There weren’t  that many of them. It made them all the more important. 

The best road memory was of a vacation with a carload of relatives to Niagara Falls. She rated the scenery of Wisconsin, traveled through by car on the trip to New York, as very beautiful. 

She’d made several flights to see her daughter in Arizona but objected to the heat.

We had coffee and we visited. I went to her place. She didn’t come over, in part because she seldom left the house except to tend her flowers. She was getting unsteady on her feet.

She and I stayed in touch after Al and I made another  move. One letter reported a serious heart attack. She was in the hospital eleven days. 

Her daughter was urging her to move to Arizona. She resisted the idea.

Edna was attached to her home of over fifty years. She had lifelong friends and her brother to count on. More to the point she didn’t want to go to the desert. The heat would pretty much finish her off she wrote.

The letter came enclosed with an undated clipping from the local paper. The newspaper article was titled “Two Many Cooks.”

It must have been a regular column although I didn’t remember it from our time there. Maybe it was a new feature.

Edna was the featured guest in this particular column. It was a nice write-up of her gardening interests and longtime activities in town.

She was photographed with her South African amaryllis of apple blossom pink. The plant was a birthday gift from a granddaughter the story noted.

I was so happy my friend made print. Her phone would have rung off the hook with friends calling to say they saw her in the paper. 

She’d have given a joshing response, savoring all the while the recognition accorded her.

The column included her recipe for Applesauce Bread, which follows.

Applesauce Bread (Edna’s recipe)

In bowl combine 1½ cups applesauce, 1 cup sugar, ½ cup oil, 2 eggs and 3 tablespoons milk.  Blend in 2 cups sifted flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, ½ tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, ¼ tsp. allspice. ¼ tsp. salt. Add ½ cup walnut pieces.

Pour into oiled 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan. On top sprinkle mixture of ¼ c. nuts, ¼ c. brown sugar and ½ tsp. cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees one hour or test for doneness.

Ro Giencke – September 12, 2012




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