I spent the morning peeling old apples.
Visiting the Midwest, I arrived just as the sleet began to fall on Daniel’s house. He was at work, I had a few days off. As the weather grew colder, I puttered around his house and decided to make a pie from the last of his apples.
“I’ve got a lot of apples left,” he assured me. I looked in the refrigerator. I didn’t see apples in the crisper. I didn’t see apples anywhere.
“Where are they?” I asked.
“In the fridge, just sort of everywhere,” he said. And they were.
Tucked into every corner of the refrigerator were four or five apples. Hidden behind the milk, skulking behind the beer, stashed among the condiments, the more I looked, the more apples I found. It was a sort of post-Thanksgiving Easter egg hunt in the refrigerator— with apples.
The next morning I started to peel.
I listened to the sleet banging and rattling against the windows and roof, and I peeled the small, soft apples. These were not apples that had been bred for a long shelf life. They were certainly past their prime. Some were wrinkled. All had spots. Some had marks left by a squirrel. They had come from Daniel’s lone apple tree in the front yard. I looked out the window at the tree, leafless now and slowly being covered in the sleet that was turning to snow.
It was a lot of work to get a small, sweet piece of apple meat from the old fruit. The peels and the cores comprised most of the apple. Once I cut the spots out, there was less apple yet. I cut apple after apple and very slowly filled the waiting pie crust.
Then, for no reason at all, I started to cry.
Yes, I have been a little tired and a little lonely, living in a new city so far from Daniel and my family. Yes, I have been working my old brain hard, trying to learn as well and as fast as classmates half my age. It was good to be back home, it was good to be with Daniel, it was good to have the time to do something as simple and necessary as making an apple pie. But it was something more besides.
My heart was warmed by these small, wrinkled apples. I admired their imperfection and their tenacity. They were tender and sweet and unique and I knew they would make a very good pie. They were not in competition with bigger, more robust apples. They were perfect, just as they were.
I peeled these little imperfect apples, proud that I was putting them to use. I was glad that Daniel had not given up on them and left them on the ground to rot. They might take a little more work, they might not win any prizes. But I was sure that, once they were in a pie, they would be as good as any apples on earth.
It is a good thing to make the best use of what is at hand. It seems somehow noble to make use of something sweet and good that would otherwise be wasted. It is satisfying to know that perfection is an illusion, and that all of us somehow fall short of an imaginary ideal. It would be easy to say these apples are just too much trouble, too old, and too imperfect to bother with.
A better thing to do, it seems to me, is to make an apple pie.
Till next time,