Consider the apple -that most basic and American of snacks.
Ponder the simplicity of this timeless snack, so appealing to all the senses. Bright red with swirls of yellow, this colorful fruit is tempting to behold in the palm of your hand. Before biting into it, relish the delicate aroma and caress the smooth texture of the skin covering its fleshy fruit, like nature’s own candy wrap. Rinse it clean under the faucet and watch the water droplets form like dew from a morning mist. Feel the heft of this solid ball packed with delicious nutrients, chock full of nourishing goodness. Know that it has grown supple from a tree blossom nourished by gentle spring rains and summer rays of the sun.
For most people, the humble apple is a perfectly acceptable snack eaten just plain, but for the true “snackoisseur”, the shiny red fruit is only the starting ingredient to slice into a full snack experience that engages all the senses.
An easy way to quickly dress up those apple slices is to dip them into a dollop of creamy peanut butter. Enjoy the slightly salty taste of the smooth peanut butter mixed with the crunchy, sweet apple. It calls to mind those after-school treats of peanut butter sandwiches spread with jelly, marshmallow fluff or sliced banana.
For a richer snackoisseur experience, cover the apple slices with a drizzle of gooey caramel. Dipped in the sticky, creamy sauce, they conjure memories of those scrumptious taffy apples of Halloweens past. Recall those parties of childhood friends dressed in costumes, bobbing for crunchy apples floating in a bin of ice-cold water after trick-or-treating when many homes handed out big, red delicious apples. Mom checked them for razor blades because of scary urban legends at the time, but never found any buried inside.
The ultimate apple experience is to bake apples into a succulent apple pie, cobbler or strudel. The soothing aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg fills the room. When they are golden brown, top them with caramel and candied pecans. Cover them with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream or a slice of cheddar cheese, and it drips with Americana. The desserts conjure memories of days gone by, of Grandma baking cookies, or the cat sleeping peacefully in the window seat, looking so cozy.
As I savor this humble fruit, I am inspired to reflect on a simpler time in American life — when neighborhoods and playgrounds flourished, and everybody knew and cared about each other. We went to ice cream parlors, drive-ins, or family gatherings, such as picnics, when Dad drove a big Ford or Chevy, and Uncle Artie pulled up in his new Mustang. And what memorable tunes they played on the radio back then. The sound of music filled the airwaves. These were “Happy Days,” the apogee of the American Dream in the late 1950s, a prosperous time of plenty.
People sat on the front porch or the backyard patio in those days, holding actual conversations, rather than constantly texting on their cell phones. It was a time of watching football games before sharing big Sunday dinners of roast beef, pork roast or fried chicken with homemade mashed potatoes. All topped off with that warm slice of apple pie. Life was so sweet back then.
So, when you are feeling a little down, slice up that apple . . . and remember a happier time when simplicity proved to be the real slice, in fact many slices of life. Then find your way back to a sense of home again.