Candid apples

Finally, it’s occurred to me, the reason hardly anybody cooks anymore. It’s because of the carpet cleaners.

You make an appointment, structure your entire day around it – and then they’re late. Not only are they late, but a piece of their equipment malfunctions, so that the cleaners must head across town to fetch a replacement part, only to return just at that narrow window in your afternoon when you thought you’d have time to make the apple crisp. The apple crisp that you’re only making to use up the apples you didn’t even really want in the first place; the crisp that is supposed to be snug in the oven while you put together that little something called dinner.

The cleaners are loud, they get in your way, and they ask you questions about a hot water source and the provenance of the giant blue Rorschach-looking spot on the bedroom floor. The four-year-old is understandably nervous about the vacuum that’s taller than she is, and suddenly your moral opposition to dialing for delivery evaporates, and you’re tempted to ditch dessert altogether.

Yesterday I was smack in the middle of this situation, but seeing as I had five peeled apples sitting on my counter, and realizing I’d already let Brian in on the possibility of a baked apple something-or-other, I couldn’t let inconvenience kick me out of my kitchen.

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But first, I ought to back up. We received roughly a dozen medium-sized Granny Smith apples in our co-op produce basket this past Saturday. Now, ten apples would usually be reason to rejoice, but given that Granny Smith is quite possibly my least favorite variety of apple, it was really kind of a downer. Pink Lady, you have my deepest affections. The same goes for you, Pacific Rose. And you Honeycrisp, you, that I just tasted for the very first time in Vermont, how well your name doth fit.

Every time I caught those Grannies peering up at me from the fruit bowl, co-existing with the under-ripe oranges and the just-green bananas, it seemed they were throwing down a challenge: Peel me! Core me! Bake me!

When my husband – who cannot appreciate the texture of raw apples, but who gamely chomps through one or two every autumn, usually right under an apple tree – tried a Granny Smith yesterday and declared it too firm, too dry, too tart, I knew my only choice was to bake those suckers into something edible.

Four p.m. arrived, and the cleaners returned, ready to suction microfiber just feet away from where I stood chopping apples and juicing a lemon. I was trying to smoosh my sugar, oat and butter mess into the large, moist clumps that would redeem those apples and I felt like I was inside a very large vacuum.

My girls were in even closer proximity, right next to me, dancing and laughing and engaging in all sorts of silliness. Vocal unrestraint was emanating from their little bodies, I could tell by looking, but I was spared the noise. I saw their mouths moving, theatrical opening and closing, but heard not a sound. The only sound was the blaring, overbearing drone of the upholstery cleaner.

And there we have it, the part where the inconvenient verged on marvelous: It was almost like I was alone in my kitchen, with grainy, sugary, slick fingertips, a heavy dusting of flour on my sweater, and my thoughts allowed full circle in my head, uninterrupted as they were by the carrying on of little girls.

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I might always have to make cleaning appointments this late in the day.

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