Honey Crisp. That’s the name of the apple I’m addicted to, and I think I know why. There’s the satisfying crunch of teeth followed by a rush of tangy sweetness, but that isn’t all. Neither is the apple’s satisfying chewability enough, nor the anticipation of the next bite. Those are all contributors to my addiction, but there’s more: It’s the memory of a solemn old man in an overall jacket standing behind a white picket fence beside a heavily laden front yard tree on a Canadian autumn afternoon. He’s plucking big, perfect, bright red apples and handing them over the fence to grade school kids treading the sidewalk parallel to the fence on their way home from school, and I was one of them.
I wonder if our taste buds aren’t less responsible for our food preferences than the occasion surrounding their original consumption. Who isn’t comforted by egg custard and homemade chicken noodle soup like our moms served us with love when we had the sniffles? Those early associations matter. I could never love turnips regardless of how I made their acquaintance, but I never drink coffee with cream and sugar that I don’t happily think of my mother sitting across from me during one of our afternoon “fikarasts” (coffee breaks).
My grown sons speak fondly of the minute steaks of their youth, the pot roasts on Sundays, the “thousands of things” (pinto beans) in between, and apricot cobbler or fried pies on demand (we had a tree); but to this day, they speak most glowingly of what I called Spanish rice. My original concoction involved hamburger, onions, tomato juice and rice smothered in cheese. A valued memory, I’m sure, but I’ve never since been able to duplicate that dish to the satisfaction of their adult taste.
As I speak, I’m in the process of planning a family dinner in celebration of my son’s birthday, hoping his kids will take away a happy lifelong preference for the sort of food they remember having eaten at their Maw-maw’s table. One of them tolerates no dairy products and the other has nothing good to say about garlic or mushrooms. (How could a grandkid of mine take that attitude!) Except for turnips, my own kids ate whatever I put on the table and asked for more.
But I’ve got it covered. There’ll be two separate pots of spaghetti sauce (one with garlic and mushrooms and one without); two loaves of Italian bread (one with cheese and the other not); a creamy salad dressing and also a vinaigrette to choose between, and sliced onions on the side for those who want them.
My birthday son prefers pie to cake, so the lactose intolerant g-kid will share his dad’s birthday cherry pie and the other will have pumpkin. Because of an old man who once stood behind a white picket fence sharing apples, my daughter-in-law and I will have Honey Crisp dumplings.
MARJORIE ANDERSON is an Edmond resident.