Apple crisp

 

We had a cooking apple tree
in the garden when I was a boy
and my father would take the windfalls
big like his closed fist
core them and fill the hole
with raisins and brown sugar
put them in the oven to bake
leaving long enough to think.

This morning stood over the sink
the last of the snow melting through the kitchen window
a kid bleating in the background for his breakfast
I burnt my tongue on apple crisp
and I missed my mother something fierce
for when there’s no-one left to take care of you in the world
all you’ll have for comfort are your recipes.
and it won’t seem near like enough.

[Originally a journal entry:]

One man’s death
is another’s release
one man’s silence
another’s peace.

The vodka diet’s working out well, so that’s nice. Living in America we have a lot of fruit of course, or at least a lot of fruit that’s always being left over in the fruit bowl. It starts out looking taut and green (or red or yellow), but then the time goes by and the fruit’s all ignored mostly and then the decay gets going, unnoticed at first, being how as decay’s quiet in its work. Then you get rot and brown pieces of skin going soft. Then, like with old people, it’s mostly common to sweep the fruit under the carpet into the garbage and often at night. Just make a fresh start and a mental note to self to get more newer fruit.

Instead of that I got up unshaven and with my hair all awry seeing as it’s Saturday and took a rubber-handled peeler to the little red apples that I’d noticed (just last night on my way past the kitchen counter where the fruit bowl is because that’s on your way to the drinks cupboard if your coming in from the living room all thirsty) were less firm than you’d like. I cut them and cored them, chopped them into bite-sized pieces for a small mouth, put them in a glass baking dish you can see right through. Then, before anything else, I knew I had to get my thinking straight about spoons.

Growing up we were poor but had more spoons than folks allot themselves these days. Amongst them were dessert spoons and tablespoons. Dessert spoons were maybe two or three times the size of a teaspoon but still delicate affairs compared to the tablespoon. I think of the teaspoon as a pony, the dessert spoon as a thoroughbred, whereas the tablespoon is a dray horse, ready to pull a cart loaded with beer barrels or sacks of coal. When making crumbles or crisps you need to measure out an equal amount of flour and sugar to mix. The recipe in my mind calls for three tablespoons each, but there are no tablespoons in the kitchen drawers of New Jersey, not really. Not so as my dead grandmother would notice. So you have to guess a bit is what I’m saying. Three spoons each and then some more. Add a whole stick of softened butter (4 ounces), which is more than is called for, but then that’s my rule of thumb with butter.

45 minutes in an oven preheated to 375. Set aside (a culinary phrase that always reminds me of being abandoned at a boarding school in mid-winter and so far -of course- from home). Yes, golden brown, mother. Texture like sun. And then there’s the matter of the cultural differences concerning the custard I would drench said apple pudding with if I were back home, but here pudding is only a type of custard and dessert is what you have after dinner, rather than afters which is what pudding was in my father’s house which has long been sold to pay away the debts and at the end of it there was no more than a few hundred pounds and that was all spent on the drink before the memory of him was barely cold.

We had a cooking apple tree in that garden and he would take the windfalls, big like his closed fist, core them and fill the hole with raisins and brown sugar, put them in the oven to bake. Hardly Proust’s madeleine, but this morning stood over the sink, the last of the snow melting through the kitchen window, a kid bleating in the background for his breakfast, I burnt my tongue on apple crisp, watching the lonely left-alone bananas browning before me, and I missed my mother something fierce for when there’s no-one left to take care of you in the world, all you’ll have for comfort are your recipes. It won’t seem near like enough.

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