Living in Florida, the signs of autumn are a little harder to discern. There are no trees sporting a bright red/orange/yellow coat of leaves, and while the air is a wee bit cooler and the humidity is far more reasonable, it's certainly not the crisp chilly autumn of my youth, nobody is bundled up in sweaters and scarves, and the frost is absolutely not on the pumpkin.
The signs of autumn are far more subtle than other places I've lived. Oh there are a few indications: the Halloween costumes on display at Walmart, pumpkin spice latte signs in the Starbucks windows and of course, my favourite, apples for sale in the farm market.
Pumpkins are nice, don't get me wrong. I do love pumpkin pies, pumpking cakes, pumpkin breads and while I am not very good at it, I've been known to carve a jack-o-lantern or two in my time, but apples, there is my little autumn heartbeat.
My favourite eating apple is a McIntosh. Hard to come by down here but my local farm market carries them for a few weeks and I eat them just as fast as I can buy them. Granny Smith of course, are best for baking. And then there are roughly a zillion or so other types of apples on display and I need to try them all. The only ones so far that I definitely do not care for are the ones most often seen in ads and commercials, Delicious apples. The name sounds so appealing but I just do not like them at all. Pretty to look at but no thank you to eating.
Courtland, Macs, honey crisp, Figi's, Pink Lady, on my the list does go on and on. Johnny Appleseed knew what he was about when he planted apples willy nilly. Apples are not just a great sign of my favourite of all seasons, Fall, but they are so versatile. Caramel apples, toffee apples, candy apples yum. Pretty much any apples on a stick is a good idea. Apples pies, cakes, cookies, tarts, crisps, turnovers, Yes I love them all. Apple cider, apple butter, applesauce, apple bread, all divine. In fact, better than divine, they are divoon (thank you Stacy). Apples with porkchops, apples with sauerkraut, apples with sweet potatoes and bacon. Apple in salad, apples with pears, apples in chutney and compote too. Baked apples, fried apples, dried apples and the dried apple dolls my great grandmother used to make, mercy!
I like my fruit seasonally, I admit. Strawberries in June, Peaches in August and apples in October and then stop until the next season. I am aware that I can probably find most fruits any time of year nowadays but somehow it takes part of the delight of it all away from the experience. When I wait until those apples (for example) are ready in the fall, when they snap when I bite into them and the juice sprays out onto my chin and I end up wiping it off with the back of my hand and slurping a bit to not waste a drop, when the taste is both sweet and tart and the flesh is firm to the touch but not rock hard, when there is so much flavor the room is scented by them as soon as I sit them in a bowl on the table.....well I would rather experience that for a few weeks a year and glut on them at that time before eagerly awaiting the next perfect apple season, than eat a mediocre or tasteless, mealy mooshy imperfect apple year 'round.
Not to imply that perfect apples look perfect because they most definitely do not! It's not about how they look, it's about how they taste, how they smell, how they feel in your hand. About the size of a softball, about the same firmness too. No signs of worms living within of course, but a few gentle bruises don't put me off. I will rinse it under the tap and shin it up on my shirt. I do not know why a shirt shined apple tastes better than and unshined one, but it does. But they might be oddly shaped, lumpy and awkward. The perfect apple probably does not sit well on the countertop, which is why they are corralled by bowl in my house.
As a kid we prolonged the apple experience by having arbitrary rules. First the apple eater had to twist off the stem while saying the alphabet. supposedly, the letter the stem broke off on was the first letter of the name of the person the eater would marry. This was a VERY important step. Some people then peeled their apples. If you peeled it, the peel was supposed to come off in one perfect spiral. I like the peel myself so that was a non-issue for me (unless I'm baking of course). If sharing an apple, it would probably be cut first in half, so that the lovely heart shape of the core was revealed, the shiny brown seeds glistening within then in quarters and then again for little wedges of apple. We would flick the seeds callously to the ground. We were warned to not eat the seed for fear that they would take root in our little bellies and grow inside of us! We would caution each other but giggle while we said it, even as little children we knew how silly that idea was. Then we would crunch away, gobbling up that appleish goodness, then lick our fingers clean. Sometimes the dog would lick our fingers clean for us. What's a few germs between friends eh?
When I was in college, I very rarely managed to get to the cafeteria for meals due to my work and school schedule. So instead I walked a few blocks to a mom & pop grocery store and bought a bag of apples and a box a cookies then stashed them in my dorm room closet. I pretty much lived on those through the autumn. It was enough and it was perfect.
I've already eaten my apple today and I have enough to get me through this first week of October. It may not keep the doctor away, as in the old saying, but every October you will find me at a farm market with a bag, a peck, a bushel of apples until they are gone once again. Then I will wait until next year to dive in and indulge, once again, in my happy appleness!
What is your favourite first sign of Autumn?
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.