Lonnie, the affable delivery man from Zone 7 rolled into the bakery Wednesday morning. He was wheeling a vehicle that was a curious hybrid of flat bed and hand truck. The word APPLES was splashed across white corrugated boxes in bold red, boasting that the fruit inside was ‘Select.’ The lids of the boxes were sealed in the kind of industrial staples guaranteed to cause injury to innocent thumbs. One of the boxes was partially open, offering a peak at dozens of Pink Ladies dozing inside. It was too much autumn, too soon. I had to look away.
I’ve always viewed September as a slightly melancholy month. New seasons can be fraught with uncertainty. You pull out your favorite toasty sweater to discover a moth hole, front and center. Your breezy commute to work is now grid locked by back-to-schoolers and returning commuters sporting summer tans. Autumn means lattes and quick breads perfumed with too much pumpkin pie spice. I’ve always maintained it’s better to leave the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and clove where it belongs; in the pie filling.
September means half past dark o’clocks and cold feet on bare floors. It means once you pick up that first crate of apples and start peeling, there’s no turning back to the stone fruits of summer. Apples will take center stage, briefly sharing the spotlight with the famous orange gourds of Pumptober.
I will admit to having a fondness for apple pie, particularly when apples are in season. But Wednesday’s caravan of apples, followed in hot pursuit by a case of far- from-ripe pears feels like we’re rushing the season. I’ve even spotted Halloween candy at a local supermarket and pharmacy. The next thing you know, that pharmacy is going to remind me to get a flu shot. Oh, they already did.
The bakery is inundated with new barista staff, returning customers and a few new faces in the kitchen. There remains an individual on the telephone who continues to inquire about strawberry rhubarb pie. One of these days I will have to take the phone call, explaining that pie seasons change, but not today. Personally, I am refusing to acknowledge the shifting tide of seasonal change, hanging on to the last of summer in small ways.
Stone fruit, for example, provides one of the last glimpses of summer. Rolling across my kitchen counter is a small collection of white and yellow peaches, a handful of sweet cherries, an over-sized nectarine, a few deep purple plums. I am in search of a 9” springform pan. Digging through the cavernous bottom drawer that desperately needs the organizational prowess of Sweet Soprano, I unearth the pan. It is overused, the slightest bit warped, from too many years of turning out Oreo cheesecakes in a Philadelphia restaurant.
I fill the springform with a sweet crust that requires blind-baking. Slicing the stone fruit in halves, then in wedges, I choose to leave the fruit unpeeled. It’s enough to twist the cherries apart and remove their stubborn pits. My fingers are stained with crimson juice and the sticky sweetness of peaches. If I could bottle this fragrance, this farewell to summer, I would. I see myself splashing it with abandon in a last ditch effort to ward off that November pie holiday. My personal bottle of Kryptonite.
Yesterday at work, one of my favorite baristas (I know- like your own children, you are not supposed to have favorites, but I do) asked me how many apple pies I’ve made overall. Truthfully, I had never thought about it until that very moment. It reminded me of those questions you stumble upon during a standardized math test and choose to skip because you haven’t a clue.
I do know that I am looking at a forecast with way too many apple pies on the horizon. Pink Ladies and Fujis have already fallen victim to the blade of my peeler and paring knife, with back-up waiting in the walk-in. Someone should tell Lonnie and Zone 7 that autumn doesn’t officially commence until September 22nd.
My autumn will undoubtedly be fueled with apples from wholesale sources and from quieter farm markets. It isn’t fall in my apple book until Macouns are available, an apple named for Canadian W. T. Macoun. See, yet another reason to love Canada, B. Gray.
I will bide my time, allowing the pumpkin latte worshippers and the Saturday apple pie grabbers to gush over autumn. If only we could teach the doctrine, to every pie there is a season. The next season has yet to arrive.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm