Apple Tree

The road you take will lead you here, so while you wait for the sun to rise again, think of us dancing in the rain

Tomorrow, Jono McCleery

Whenever I try a new cuisine I want to immediately jump on a plane to a new place: Iran for Persian eggplant stew, Morocco for harira soup, Venezuela for arepas and Ethiopia for handmade injera. The discovery of a new flavor (salted maple), condiment (green tamatillo salsa verde) or vegetable (squash vine) gives me the same thrill as another traveller might feel when they say, bungee jump into a waterfall or find bottomless $2 mimosas at brunch.

For every new city I visit, I always seek out a local farmers market to see, taste (and squeal) at seasonal produce and ask the growers lots of questions – they are the ultimate tour guide.

Four months into my North American travels, it was love at first bite when I tasted an organic Ontario-grown ginger gold apple at a farmers market in a Toronto park. I immediately wanted to know where I could pick them myself. The apple-picking season was in full swing at orchards an hour outside of Toronto, but I had no car or way to get to the countryside. I considered hitchhiking but knew I would be stretching my traveller’s luck by trying to cart home a 20-kilo basket of apples in a stranger’s car.

Two weeks of persistence and failed persuasion left me fruitless, literally. I had given up hope of tasting an apple straight from the tree when my two Canadian housemates (returning from a camping trip) casually remarked that they had picked buckets of apples last week. From a tree. Down a street. A few blocks from where my mouth was standing wide open in our kitchen.

Within minutes we set forth on our apple mission with a comically long ladder, big carry bags and even bigger grins. Passing familiar laneways and streets, this mission had no GPS. After several wrong turns and doppelgänger trees – we turned a corner and with the sun shining directly on her like a beacon, we found her.

We quickly set up the ladder and I climbed up to get the first taste. I picked the first one I could reach. In awe of her perfectly imperfect rumbled skin and golden ginger glow, I took the victorious bite. My housemates waited in silence for the verdict. The mouth to flesh contact made a satisfying crunch. I proclaimed it “the best apple of my life.” Then I picked and ate another one.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them. – Henri Matisse

I can’t say if this same apple would be the best apple of your life, but it tasted like home to me. And since I don’t have one at the moment, home was wherever I am. Wherever I am I like to cook, so the backyard bounty is bubbling away on the stove to be made into apple chamomile marmalade for new neighbourhood friends.

It is true – you never forget your first (handpicked apple).