Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mugs and Apples

It must have been years ago because we were still living in the 3rd arrondissement in a wonderful top floor duplex in a neighborhood that I didn't appreciate.  I wanted to be plop down in the middle of things.  As it was we were pretty close, and to get to the Rhone riverside I only had to go down to the street, turn right, and walk about a quarter of a block.  I decided one morning, feeling inspired, to take my coffee down to the riverside, sit on a bench, and watch the city wake up.

Everything began well enough.  I got downstairs with my mug in hand, full of hot steaming coffee, and proceeded to the street.  There, a woman was walking by, and she slowed at the sight of me.  She pursed her lips and made a sidestep to distance herself as if I was infected with something.  She gave me a good hard look from head to toe before quickening her pace and passing by.  Same or similar incidents occurred, a man who kept his eyes on me as if to keep me at a distance, a woman who pulled her dog away.  I was beginning to feel terribly self conscious.  I raised the mug to my mouth for a sip of coffee while waiting for a light and it seemed even the cars driving by slowed down so the people could stare.  Quel horreur, look at that woman raising a mug to her mouth! A mug!  On the street!  I proceeded toward the avenue that ran along the river. I was ready to cross, when I just changed my mind.  I realized that if I tried to cross the road with a coffee mug in my hands and people driving fast caught a sight of it, we might have a spectacular car flipping accident.  Tail between my legs, I returned to my apartment, a bit harried, and had my coffee looking out the tiny window of  in my little kitchen.

I thought about that day the first time we saw the apple tree in fruit.  The notaire's office had proposed a ridiculously early appointment time for us to go and finalize the purchase of the house in the mountains.  That morning we had to leave while it was still dark out to drive up into the Alps to make this early appointment.  I had pushed things to the last minute, trying to get every moment of sleep I could, and had been rushed to get dressed before we left.  I didn't have time for coffee, even though there was a fresh pot on the stove.  I decided to take it with me.  I brought the mug with me in the car, and took great pleasure in sipping it while we were in the traffic. Ahhh.  Coffee.  I couldn't help but glance from side to side to see if the people in cars around us were surprised.  They weren't. It is only when you are a pedestrian that mug holding is inappropriate.

Once out of the notaire's office with keys in hand, we flew up to the mountains.  We'd bought that house not even knowing what kinds of trees there were, so imagine the joy when we saw that the old tree near the house was positively loaded with crisp tart cooking apples.  We were very involved with getting things operational during those first weekends before winter closed in, getting the stove refurbished, the kitchen painted, the pine floors sanded and refinished, so there was barely any time to think much about cooking the apples when we were up there.  There would be the next year. A couple of crisps and that was it.

I was saddened to see that this past fall, the tree barely produced any fruits at all.  She didn't even bloom last spring except for a little spray of blossoms on a branch within reach that turned to fruit.  We cherished every single fruit she gave us.  Coffee mug in hand, I decided to have a little pow wow with the tree.  I went out and opened my mind to her spirit.  Here, she said, I'll give you these this year, this is my offering.  But please understand that I am cold and tired and there's this mistletoe that's been a bit taxing.  I arranged quickly for a man from the forestry service come and do what he had to in order to remove the mistletoe this winter while she was asleep.  Maybe next year she'll be feeling back to her old self. 

In any case, our neighbor who has a little orchard of 9 trees of different varieties, picked and picked all season long, and still didn't get all the apples from his trees.  His compost pile had a pyramid of rotting apples  that turned brown, then white, then collapsed into the heap. He gave us free reign and also this winter he began dropping off boxes of apples he'd stored in his cellar.  That was what we found on our kitchen doorstep a couple of weekends ago and those were the apples that went into Friday's chutney.

I am sitting inside on this late winter morning with my coffee, thinking of that and the fruit bowl.  I better do something with the rest of these apples.  I think I will dry some for sprinkling into oatmeal, and make some spicy apple cake.



Blogger racheld said...

AHHHH, the mark of a loose woman---a mug in hand. I wonder if that is the equivalent of my Mother's dictum that only tarts smoked "on the street."

Our own "AppleDear" was here when we bought the house, and was not well for the last several years of her life, bearing few tart little greenies, and leaning, leaning.

Her trunk was almost hollow, except for about an inch of wood just inside the bark in a 3/4 circle. And if not for the grapevines with their tender, tenacious embrace, she'd have fallen earlier, for we cut her trunk, and gently lowered her to ground as we snipped away the supporting vines.

A new little Braeburn is in her spot, and will bloom her bright bouquet soon, I hope.

And the apple cake---that sounds perfect for this cold, bright day.

1:59 PM, March 16, 2010  
Blogger SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Apple tart always makes the whole house smell gorgeous ! And then you have the fun of eating it to the last crumb .

5:20 PM, March 16, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Yes pie would be good. Thanks, friends.

11:11 PM, March 16, 2010  
Blogger Amanda said...

You write beautifully. I love reading your stories. And apples are my favorite, as there are infinite applications.

1:44 AM, March 17, 2010  
Blogger Hilda said...

Oh that is so funny. I remember feeling nothing short of horror when we moved to the US from Paris when I was 10 and kids were eating food in class, totally beyond unthinkable, but what you're describing is so French and so silly (though the not eating in class thing I carried through college and still believe you shouldn't). Sometimes I think fruit trees just don't feel like it when that time of the year comes around. Maybe next year like you said.

12:03 AM, March 19, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thank you Amaranthian and Hilda, nice comments to have my coffee with this morning.

8:37 AM, March 19, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

moi aussi, j'aime beaucoup vos histoires ;) en plus elle est amusante... :)
belle soiree !

5:57 PM, March 19, 2010  
Anonymous chaumomma said...

You might get a good crop of apples this year since the tree has has some pruning due to the mistletoe. My pear tree has had bumper yields since I removed the excess limbs and suckers.

4:10 PM, March 20, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Merci anon. We certainly hope so Chaumomma. I will keep you updated.

11:12 PM, March 21, 2010  
Blogger Christine Cassidy said...

Proper pruning is essential as is regular and deep watering, even in winter. Many people think that because it's a tree it can get all it needs without help but the years I provided regular deep watering and mulched heavily over the winter with manure & straw are the years I got heavy yields from my apple & peach trees. Toss more supplements for minerals (I like Azomite) kelp, something for calcium and you will be amazed at the amount and taste of the fruit not to mention that you are bolstering your tree's health & vitality. Trees are living, growing organisms and respond well to this extra care, just like any living plant or animal.

7:46 PM, March 23, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Christine, thank you so much for your great advice. I will follow it.

7:57 PM, March 23, 2010  
Anonymous Gosia said...

Hello again, something happened to the comment I left here yesterday. No harm done. Just wanted to tell you that I love the mug story. All the best.

7:44 AM, March 28, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Gosia dear, I think you posted it on the post either above or below this one, I just left it there because it was such a wonderful warm spirited comment. Thanks so much for your kind comment.

11:41 AM, March 28, 2010  
Anonymous june2 said...

Hard cider? Apple fruit leather? Umm...my favorite, glazed apple turnover triangles in puff pastry for Sunday breakfast? Or my real favorite, a baked apple in honey-glazed puff pastry with a melted chocolate stuffed core, yumm...sounds like too much and it is, in the best way.

2:12 AM, April 03, 2010  

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