My childhood nickname was “Apple Queen”. In later years, I have wondered why I wasn’t called “Apple Princess” but I think it may have had something to do with the name of a variety of apple at that time. One of my mother’s favourite early black and white photographs of me, taken in my grandparents’ long driveway at Hampton, Victoria, illustrates my love of apples. I have a Granny Smith apple in each hand, possibly from a homegrown tree. I was about four years old and, by the look on my face, quite serious about the art of eating apples.
I still am. One sits next to me as I type. If I need a snack, a lunch box filler or fruit for a picnic, I grab an apple. Drool has formed in the corners of my mouth when I’ve looked at apples with sultanas and honey. Strudel, pies, pureed or skewered on a kebab, the texture and essence of apples is never lost. That crisp, sweet smell pervades my senses, particularly when I walk into a room and get a whiff of that fruity fragrance. Immediately I want to chomp my teeth into the cool, smooth skin, break through that thin protective layer to taste its juicy flesh. That first crunch is like no other sound. The sound reverberates through my jaw as I munch the apple into cider and swallow.
In my haste to eat an apple, I have been known to choke on a piece but it has never put me off. My mother could devour a whole apple, pips and all, but that’s not my style. I denude the apple to the core then toss the remains into the garden for some foraging creature to finish off.
I have a vivid memory of apple blossom and then tiny green and red striped apples forming on a tree we had in our backyard at Mount Waverley, Victoria. Picking them too soon, I recall my disappointment at their unripe, bitter flavour. Just recently I have read that apples are helpful to asthma sufferers and, since I am a life-long asthmatic, I wondered if instinct might have played a part in my voracious consumption. It certainly had nothing to do with Adam or Eve.
Occasionally, I am asked about my favourite variety and I answer “Any. As long as it’s not bruised.” Apples creep into my salads, my sauces and, thanks to a friend, into my hamburger mince. To me, a dessert isn’t a proper dessert unless it contains apples. Imagine a world without apple pie and ice-cream! My father liked cloves cooked into apple pies and that’s the only time I didn’t like my mother’s cooking. To this day I don’t know why the odd flavouring of clove is meant to enhance cooked apples.
The very shape of an apple is pleasing to me, even the logo on my laptop. During my teenage years, I collected ornaments in the shape of apples. Two examples may have survived. A red china apple made in two halves, the bottom half containing candle wax. The other apple made of hand-blown glass, with a glass leaf, which contains layers of coloured sands from Cooloola Beach on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
Baby daughters are now being named Apple; it’s something I didn’t think of at the time and I’m hoping it’s after the apple blossom fruit rather than the corporation. My fruit bowl is really an apple bowl with other fruit scattered around for effect. Sometimes toffee apples will creep into the mix and I treat them with caution. Hard red toffee and my teeth don’t work well together but I never let that stop me.
Happy torta di mele!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward