Give Me Spots on My Apples
The autumnal equinox past, the leaves are turning, there are acorns falling on the back porch, and pumpkins have appeared at market, along with bright red apples and carbon tomatoes—a dark heirloom that looks and tastes as if it has stored up the secrets of summer.
(Jessica Smith is the hand model below)
I have a new favorite weed on my walk back from work; I call these Parmesan stalks, and they figure into what grating cheese I reach for cooking dinner most nights.
And at work we recently celebrated one of my favorite holidays, International Talk Like a Pirate Day, on September 19th. My colleague Cameron’s birthday happens to fall on the 19th as well (clever of his parents); below, I asked my picarooning colleagues what Talk Like a Pirate Day means to them—
I started thinking about what the recognized observance meant the weekend before TLAPD, when I traveled to Austin for the Austin City Limits festival and studio tapings.
Expecting a big yellow taxi, Austin brought the quirk, and I instead hailed a winged, turquoise vehicle complete with feathers and blue vinyl seats to the Austin Motel, an eccentric, renovated landmark with lawn chair room furniture (that looks as though it has been sitting on neighborhood lawns for a few decades) and fantastic 50s printed wallpaper.
I wandered up and down South Congress, marveling at the vintage at New Bohemia, then crossing the street to Amy’s for Mexican vanilla, “good people, naughty ice creams,”
and the specials taped up as they are created.
I brunched at South Congress Cafe, with their wonderful, warm cornbread muffins,
steak and eggs benedict with a gouda potato pancake and wild boar sausage,
and a slice of their carrot-cake french toast with cream cheese “syrup.”
I considered starting a succulents garden and marveled at enormous cactus leaves
and the processing prices for venison.
I looked up into trees, and down into paper plates of pepperoni and garlic/sausage Homeslice pizza (the latter very good);
I admired iron lace,
this bud that will bloom into
and Jane in the Austin City Limits studio at KLRU for the Arcade Fire and Wilco rehearsals and tapings.
I started watching Austin City Limits with my father when I was five, but this ACL season, which starts October 6th, promises to be my favorite.
Sitting twenty feet from the Arcade Fire cohort and then the Tweedy crew, I went back and forth between the control room and my seat, meeting locals and staff who are incredibly, and deservedly, proud of the show, the stadium-filling musicians who choose to play for three hundred people, and KLRU’s commitment to local community.
Across the street from the studio, I found trees either full of nests or leaf clumps (while I know Austin to be full of songbirds, these looked like seed packets of some sort),
and even the flowers looked complicated and vaguely musical as I walked to the farmers’ market downtown.
Two laps around the small market, and I sat euphorically blinking at the chocolate-covered cocoa beans in my hands while listening to the Austin Banjo Club play and watching the Edimoto garden art sell.
The town takes its commitment to the color orange quite seriously, and I took the shuttle to the ACL Festival after the Wilco taping on Saturday
and immediately headed toward the Hudson’s on The Bend food vendor (a favorite of the Austin City Limits show crew) and ordered a crunchy chicken and avocado cone—these come sauced with remoulade and hiding slaw at the bottom.
I gawked at ten-foot Gibson Les Pauls, particularly the mirrored one, and let Jane revel in the energy before singing “Pendulum Swinger” with the crowd gathered for Amy and Emily.
Unsurprisingly, my favorite festival set was the Decemberists’—Colin Maloy was meant for that stage at Zilker Park—and this past Saturday I filled my life with cinnamon, Albemarle Baking Company cinnamon, on my way to the Charlottesville market.
Sweet peas are blooming, and Ana lifted those heavy eyelids—sleeping is giving in, but she wakes with her family at one in the morning to drive to our market that opens at seven each Saturday.
I liked this Waterpenny Farms sign about the appearance of unsprayed apples, the surface spots being more dramatic in Golden Delicious apples, the native and state fruit of West Virginia.
And then, with a butterfly reminder to seize the beautiful weather (I regard butterflies as instruments of haste as their lifespans rarely extend beyond three weeks),
Dana ordered a Nutella fruit crepe for sustenance, I detailed my apple pie plan,
and we went to the pick the apples ourselves.
Earlier visitors to Carter Mountain had picked out the apples on lower branches, so we set out with a pronged apple-stemming pole and high expectations.
Only the Golden Delicious rows could be picked, so we passed the Winesaps and met the determined Colonel Longstreet below, also on his way to pick apples;
Dana skillfully wrested apples from upper branches, and we walked the property, Dana pointing out the farther walks up the mountain we hadn’t the time to take that afternoon as we were expected in Esmont…
That night Eric, Ben, Dana, and I arrived at the Post Office and appraised fauxpas (faux pawpaws) and then watched Will adjust cords to clear space for candles to accompany those on Helen’s cake,
a chocolate buttercream from CakeLove for the woman channeling Bardot,
and the party ended around three, as Esmont parties should, with Dana and Will leading the dancing.
A few hours later, Ben, Dana, and I reconvened at the quiet Boheme, our new choice for brunch as Mas has just discontinued their Sunday service. Ben and Dana ordered sausage and gravy, and I was very happy with my eggs Maryland.
With Dana’s Nepalese bracelet and Ben’s Peruvian doll as energizing amulets (I found both at the new Tesodores on South Congress in Austin), we simultaneously hydrated, mimosaed, and mulled over the day’s prospects.
Afterwards, I attended the last of the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival concerts (one of my favorite Charlottesville traditions) and returned to find the house filled with friends ready for pie.
I peeled and cored the apples, situated slices in the bottom crust, and began to weave.
Dana arrived with pâté, a baguette, and vanilla ice cream, Stewart raided Whole Foods for sparkling wine, Michael absconded with my camera, Ben spun country playlists, and I combined sugar, butter, and flour for a sort of apple pie roux and plaited strips of vokda dough for the lattice crust.
The sauce pours into crevices between fruit, splashes through intentional openings in the crust, a grandmother trick—and I poured asti, and we sat around the table I inherited from my grandparents, in chairs my father sat in as he grew up, listening to music, drumming on the table leaves.
A lattice crust is a trick too, a ship-in-the-bottle sort of construction where the intrigue lies in the production details, in how the components are joined.
In chamber music, the melodic line rises from a single musician, is plucked down by another, exchanged for new strains, hair tosses, and leans into and out of phrases played on inherited instruments (like the mischievous Pekka Kuusisto’s 1752 Giovanni Battista Guadagnini violin on loan from the Finnish Cultural Foundation) by ambassadors of beauty.
As Dana read the cards, we were building a mystery in mingled voices, predicting what the yet-unblemished season would invite on paths from farms to tables and elsewhere…