Friday, October 13, 2006

Apple-y Days are Here Again

The last couple of weekends have been busy. Busy seeing friends (and eating), busy visiting family (and eating), busy going apple picking (and then making apple-related treats) and then EATING them. I need a personal intervention from a Zone Chef or Jenny Craig.

A couple weekends ago on a drizzly Saturday, we went apple picking with my mom. The Windy Brow Orchard in Sussex County, NJ. When I grew up up there, there was no such thing as pick-your-own anything. But the small farmer must persist somehow. And by getting customers to clear his trees while cleverly letting us think we're being all ol'timey is one cash-cow way of doing it.

My mom, who does not believe in partaking in the migrant worker experience, normally just goes to the Windy Brow store, buys her fruit and leaves. It's very quiet and peaceful. But these pick-your-own opportunites bring out the mobs.

We had to go into the farm store to buy our empty bags and then head to the orchard. But the place had a line a mile long --people cramming into the store for anything they could get their hands on--baskets of apples, pumpkins, donuts, an errant piece of straw. The place looked like the floor of the stock exchange when one of the unassuming workers came out from the back with fresh pies. People started shouting and waving their fingers in the air, "Two, I'll take two!" "There! She's got the pies, grab one!"

My mother, who was raised in kick-ass Hudson County, is fully vetted in the bucolic Sussex County life after 30+ years living there. She was like, "Holy.... What is this insanity?!" She surveyed the scene with displeasure, and then elbow-cocked two old ladies for an apple pie.

Actually, except that she was there with her grandchildren, she would have gone right back into her car and bailed on the whole scene. But she made it as far as the orchard. Where we were told we needed to "walk that way about a half-mile to get to the good apples." My mom walked about 25 yards when a pain kicked up somewhere in her body and, like anyone with half a brain, left the drizzle, poison ivy and gnats for the comfort of her warm, dry car.

Not us, though. We paid $16 for our empty bag and we were determined to fill it. But not all the trees were labeled, so we had to do a lot of tasting before deciding which apples to pick. Now, it's been a few years since Mike's gone apple picking with us. So I forgot to rail off the list of reminders like:

Don't eat pesticide. It's not good for you.
Don't eat anything you don't recognize as being AN APPLE!

Mike would chomp right into a pesticide-covered piece of fruit. Cara and I were like, "YOU HAVE TO WIPE IT OFF ON YOUR SHIRT, AT LEAST!" Mike: "Whatever. Is that how Al-Qaida's going to get us?" Always the funny man.

A few rows later, Mike was suddenly violently spitting something out of his mouth.

Me: "What's the MATTER with you?!"

Mike: "What are those berries? They're disgusting!"

I looked up at the apple tree to see orangey-red leaves winding up the trunk with purplish berries hanging off them.

Me: "Apple trees don't grow BERRIES! What the HELL?! Are you trying to poison yourself?"

Mike: "Well, why would they let berries just grow up an apple tree? Any kid could pick and eat that."

Me: "Small children know better than to put weird things in their mouths! You're making cracks about Al-Qaida and meanwhile you're sticking any old thing in your mouth! It could be poisonous! At the very least you could end up with a massive rash in your face! JESUS!"

I still don't know what he sampled--Virginia Creeper berries? "Jersey Best" Poison Berries? It's a mystery. Because apparently, Mike spit it all out before any negative effects could take hold. His face has yet to swell up and fall off. And he was able to eat dinner that night, so there was no stomach issue. No nausea, or even a loss of appetite. ...Too bad. Because after I realized Mike wasn't going to die, I thought maybe I could save myself a call to Zone Chefs. ...Just being practical....

Catherine Schetting Salfino