Autumn is coming soon, and with it my favorite fall flavor, the very best of autumn.
I am not talking about pumpkin spice, that God-forsaken factory-made nightmare. I had a pumpkin spice latte exactly once, and I had violent orange-colored diarrhea exactly one half hour later. You can keep your pumpkin spice, and I shall keep my colon contents, thank you very much.
The flavor I am talking about is that of apples, the absolutely most wonderful food that fall gives us.
Now, you can get certain apples all year long, but fall is when many varieties are more widely available. And nobody wants to eat a Red Delicious, no matter what time of year it is. Gala, either, though I am shocked by the number of people who drop that dreck into their shopping carts. They are bland at best and flavorless at worst.
Please, if you are tempted to buy a Gala or Red Delicious apple, do us all a favor and scan the aisle for an apple staple—Pink Lady (aka Cripps Pink in some circles). It is not my absolutely most favorite apple, but it’s high up there and it is reliably tasty and has a decent shelf life. With Pink Lady so widely available, no one need eat a mediocre apple ever again.
How did I come to care so much about apples? Well, as a kid I ate quite a few. In those days, Red Delicious apples had not had the flavor bred out of them yet, and we had those, but I ate many a Granny Smith and Macintosh. Apples were a constant in the house, but I had no strong feelings about them.
With my own kids, I usually bought Pink Lady and Gala (what was I thinking?), but it still was not something I thought much about. When the kids got older, I didn’t have many apples in the house at all. I really didn’t eat enough produce for a long time, actually.
And then, 3 years ago, after my bout with breast cancer, I vowed to eat more produce and found myself perusing apple varieties in the store. I had never had a Macoun apple, and bought a few. When I bit into my first one, I realized I was eating something kind of magnificent. I wrote on Facebook that I had just eaten something crazy delicious, ans learned I had a friend who disliked apples—except Macoun. And other people threw out a couple of other apple names for me to try given that I loved Macoun.
I loved that apple so much that I read about the variety, which is only available for a few weeks each year. And shortly thereafter, my Macoun was gone from the shelves of Shop-Rite. But there was Empire (amazing) and Stayman (more amazing) and Macintosh (tasty, but way too mushy). Pink Lady was always good, save one bad batch I got at Whole Foods in which not one single apple was not bitter. That has never recurred, and Pink Lady remains the apple I recommend to everyone. Opal is magnificent, and Kiku is wonderful as long as it is hard enough; it also gets mushy fast.
Piñata gives me joy. SweeTango is close to perfect. If there are mediocre brands at the grocery, I can usually find bagged little Snapdragons to tide me over. My tried and true, Jazz, which is less sweet than many others but has the crunch I crave and stays hard in the fridge for weeks, was one of the finds of my life. Sugar Bee drips with juice and literally tastes like sugar water. It is like having a drink. Tonight, I ate a huge Pazazz and thought maybe I had a new favorite.
To me, this is the taste of fall, and the rest of the year, too, with fall giving a greater selection and the opportunity for some of the really delicious apples, like Macoun, for a few weeks. And it reminds us, and maybe we do need to be reminded, that some things are worth waiting for and cannot be provided on demand like Game of Thrones’ fourth season (and a damn fine season it was, too). Sometimes you just have to wait.
Buy your apples hard, as hard as you can find them. A soft apple is no fun for anyone. At that point, it’s almost ready to be cooked into applesauce.
Please do not ask me where I stand on Honeycrisp or Fuji. I know everyone loves them. Everyone except me. I have had exactly one delicious Fuji in my life after about 25 really uninteresting ones, and those odds are not good. Honeycrisp, well, I don’t love them. I have tried. I have bought them in numerous places, expecting that feeling that everyone else gets. I have tried to force myself to love that apple. But I don’t. It has a texture I can’t stand. I don’t find the taste appealing. However, Pazazz, Sugar Bee, and SweeTango all were developed from Honeycrisp, and I love those apples. I can’t explain. But if you love them, eat them! And try a new brand every now and again because I guarantee that if you branch out a bit, you will find others you love, too (seriously, SweeTango is sick).
Love to all.