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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Well, (apple) butter my muffin

I was about to go to a Halloween party that required a costume for entry. With my work schedule now a little lighter, I took an afternoon trip to Target with my wife.

"The adult costumes are over here," she said. She knows these things because Target calls her every morning and lets her know how the bottom line is looking and whether they need a Mt. Otis funded bail-out.

We turned the corner and I saw my choices. I could either be a strand of metallic garland or a sprig of greenery. I stopped at the end of the aisle and muttered something obscene. Christmas? I looked at the old stock lady with a look that I hoped conveyed, "I'd sooner buy your damned Christmas decorations in October as I would give you a hot oil massage in front of my mother."

I muttered some more and went to what was serving ineffectually as the clearance aisle for the Halloween stuff. As I turned around, I swear the old lady was pulling an Easter bunny and some chocolate eggs out of a box.

The pickings for Halloween costumes were pretty slim. I initially planned a medical/army theme and figured to go into the party as a Five Star Surgeon General. I ended up changing my mind and pulling together a black Medusa dress, an old lady wig, and a fake butcher knife. I was going to make a great Norman Bates' mother.

I ended up missing the party and was left with my old lady wig and a sense of confusion about what time of year it is. Are we really so damned rushed that we have to start buying Christmas stuff before I get a chance to get my "Mother!" on? I know it's trite to bitch about how early the Christmas junk comes out, but, holy, holy, holy, my pumpkin isn't even rotting yet.

See, we even delayed our trip to the pumpkin patch by a week or so. Why, rush it, you know? Last year, we had to throw elbows in a crowd of a hundred or so in the patch. This year, we were literally the only customers there. Everyone else must have shown up in July. The patch had been picked over and looked more like a Civil War battlefield if Robert E. Lee and Wade Hampton had been commanding pumpkins.

The peace and quiet was welcome, though. Instead of fighting pumpkin patch commercialism, it was like we were on our own farm, the slim pickings notwithstanding. I stood at the counter inside the barn and talked to the lady at the counter.

"Sorta quiet here," I said, disregarding my son's baby chick mimicking across the room.

"Everybody showed up the day we opened," the lady said. That was in mid-August. Back then, it was 100 degrees outside, the leaves were all still green, and Father Halloween was still making wooden toys at the South Pole. Still, people had to buy their pumpkins in time to start saving for the Christmas presents they were going to buy in October.

We picked out two pumpkins, a couple bear-fuls of local honey, and some sodas to cut through the Autumn humidity.

"Hey, hon," I said. "Grab some apple butter." The stuff we'd bought at Nivens Farm last year had been really good.

I'm not sure how many parts of the country enjoy apple butter. As far as I know, it's a national spread. However, if you live somewhere that doesn't celebrate harvest with apple butter, you are really missing out. Imagine spreading an apple pie on a buttered biscuit on a cold Autumn morning and you'll start to see where I'm coming from.

My parents were with us and I saw my mom's wheels start to turn. "Why don't we just buy some apples and make it?" she said. Five minutes later, she was explaining the difference between a bushel and a peck and we had a bag of locally grown apples in our car.

That night, after the boy was in bed, my wife, mom, dad and I stood in our kitchen and peeled apples. As my mom worked like an industrial peeling machine, the rest of us laughed while we massacred our fruit with paring knives. Over the course of the next three hours, we made and canned four jars of Mt. Otis Apple Butter.

My mom worked the recipe from memory, calculating cups and teaspoons in her head and measuring them with her hands. It was something she'd been doing her entire life and watching her work with--if you will--careless precision was something as beautiful as she is.

At 11:30 pm, we made toast and topped it with butter and our labor. The next morning, my wife made biscuits and we had the apple butter again. I don't think I have to tell you, it tasted better than anything we could've bought.

It's very easy these days to get treble-hooked by work, consumerism, and mass marketing. Before we know it, we're being dragged through the holiday waters and ending up filleted for Easter brunch. As a father of a kid who gets more mature every day, I'm learning that, holidays or not, life just moves too damned fast. Sometimes we just need to listen to our moms and slow down.

You can learn a lot from apple butter, you know?

I'll be happy to share some of mine with you if you wanna come down for my Fourth of July Party.

It's next month.

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Anonymous Ken Prevo said...


Apple Butter will long be remembered by the clan far after the thoughts about the one outer hitting.

And it gave me inspiration for an extra weekend blog

9:08 AM  
Blogger rj said...

My mom worked the recipe from memory, calculating cups and teaspoons in her head and measuring them with her hands. It was something she'd been doing her entire life and watching her work with--if you will--careless precision was something as beautiful as she is.

If one of my children ever writes a sentence like this about my wife, I will die a happy man.

10:34 AM  
Blogger "The Rake" said...

Apple butter by the apple barn in Pigeon Forge, TN. The best. well, other than your moms I am sure.

2:38 PM  
Blogger MGM said...

My four year old daughter put on her new long sleeved leopard print t-shirt today (the one she picked out in the store)and matched it with a pair of low cut flare leg jeans. I eyed her in the mirror as I brushed her hair and was choked up over how grown up she looked. I had an instant mental replay of when she was her litter brother's age of 22 months and felt sick over how fast the time has gone. I also exchanged glances with my husband that shared an agreement that we were both seeing in the future (the one that would come all too soon) and thinking of how he will soon be carrying around a bat to beat off the boys. *sigh* Don't you wish you could bottle up the precious memories that you want to savor forever?

11:15 PM  
Blogger Proto said...

Though the pickin's be slim, the elbow room more than makes up for it.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Drizztdj said...

Thank you again for keeping us in business!

5:19 PM  

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