These days my favorite way to enjoy an apple is to get up early, wrap myself in a kimono and walk outside toward one of the apple trees that surround my home in west Sebastopol. I reach for the ripest-looking fruit and if it falls into my hand with little coaxing, I understand that I am in for a treat.
Listening to the mockingbirds? morning serenade, I lift the dew-drenched fruit toward my mouth, take that first bite and let the cool juices flood my palate.
Ahh, Sebastopol, in the middle of summer.
Apples have always provided a private, singular, pristine pleasure. It?s not the aroma of an apple pie or the lusciousness of a warm apple turnover that fills me with nostalgic pleasure. Rather, it is a moment here and a moment there, alone or nearly so, spread over a lifetime.
Three apples stand out among the hundreds I have enjoyed. There?s the green Pippin that I ate as I leaned against my mother watching the ?Walt Disney Show? while recovering from some childhood illness. Although I was not yet 4, the memory of the taste is so vivid it could have been yesterday that I savored it.
There?s the Red Delicious from a grocery store in Vallejo one Halloween night just before heading out for a night of trick-or-treating. It had an irresistible perfume and I devoured it in the car as my mother drove the short distance to our house.
It would be decades before I encountered an apple as delightful as those two. But in the fall of 2002, a year after my friends Jim and John had bought Dos Reis, a 15-acre apple farm not far from where I live, we were strolling the rows of old carefully pruned trees, heavy with ripe fruit.
One tree caught my eye.
It was a loner, leaning against the barn away from the others, gnarled and sickly looking, hardly a tree at all. It seemed more a collection of ancient branches, many of them broken. Hanging from the frail branches were a few scarlet spheres, shimmering in the afternoon sun; they seemed like gifts from unknown ancestors, the ones who once tended the long-neglected tree.
It was a Red Delicious, John said, a variety that does not have a reputation for either great taste or pleasing texture.
At home that night, I took a bite of one of the apples and my mouth was instantly filled with delicious flavors, of the Red Delicious that thrived in spite of decades of neglect and of all those apples that have left their juicy, fragrant trail in my memory and in my heart.
Now is the time to enjoy our Gravenstein apples. The Gravenstein is reliably delicious, one of the most flavorful apples in the world. It is also the most ephemeral of apples; it softens quickly and is not built for storage, as later apples are. It will be celebrated on Sunday at the Sebastopol farmers market.
For years I enjoyed the blood sausage served with sauteed apples and potatoes at San Francisco?s South Park Cafe (108 South Park), a wonderful little place that is like a short trip to Paris. It is easy to make at home.
Boudin Noir with Apples and Potatoes