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.