For me fall triggers one thing, the desire to pull cinnamon from the cabinets and place nutmeg against the grater. I’ll miss the versatile berries which were perfect in any baked good, but now there was something new in town: shinny, speckled apples. Fall’s fruit, Johnny’s fruit, the fruit of America’s past time.
Local apples were the cheapest fresh fruit at the market, and I knew it was time to make my very first, very traditional, very American apple pie. I found a very fancy recipe for French Apple Pie, complete with a rum custard filling and almond sugar topping. Not the red, white and blue pie I pictured, but I’ve never been that patriotic anyway. Red, white and blue is Toby Keith singing “We’ll put a boot up your ass,” right?
It was the longest ordeal I’ve ever tackled in the kitchen. I patted myself on the back after pulsing together flour, butter, and cold water to create a crust, which one could call easy as pie. I placed the pie crust in the fridge to chill and started on the custard, slicing apples, and making the crumbs. An hour passed, I pulled out the crust and realized it needed to be blind baked, then cooled. Blast! The apples were turning brown, the custard needed to be put in the fridge, and I pulled out dried beans and foil.
When everything was finally assembled, I placed the pie proudly into the oven at 375. Time passed. Where was the delicious smell that is supposed to be wafting through the house? The pie came out. Slices were served. Something very important was missing. The taste of rum, cream, eggs, and almonds were present, but the apple was lost.
What a waste of time, and in cooking, what a waste of hope.
A few weeks later I spied apples browning and rotting on the counter. I had sworn off pies for reasons described in the above, but what about a crisp. In the time that it takes to watch an episode of Saved by the Bell, I had an apple crisp in the oven making smells far more comforting and alluring than the une tarte aux pommes. Within minutes the thin slices of apples had produced sweet juices mingled with cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Oats, pecans, and butter were a much better accompaniment than almonds and cream.
What was learned in this autumn month? No more pie and lots more crisps.