As a freshman and sophomore during undergrad, I ate at least 2 apples a day. You could take one item out of the dining hall (a piece of fruit or a cookie or an ice cream cone. Not plates or mugs filled with dry cereal or the “Pizza” sign, although people took those things too). I almost always chose an apple. Golden Delicious. I had an unlimited supply of apples, and when you’re young and have an unlimited supply of something you really love, things can get wild quickly.

I once read in Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire that if planted, every single apple’s seed will produce a different type of apple. Apple growers/apple companies/apple engineers (where do our apples come from, anyway?!?!) have figured out which apples we like the best and continually graft those specific kinds of apple trees. This amazes me. A slightly different apple for each apple’s seed.

Now that I buy my own apples, I limit myself to one a day. Some days are harder than others. The benefit of not eating dorm apples, though, is that when apple season rolls around, I eat good, local apples.

A few weeks ago, I made an apple pie. I coerced some friends into coming over to help me eat it; this “having people over so I can cook something” is becoming a habit.

My pie-making process is pretty typical. The most important step (the only step that might make my process different) involves me calling my pie-master sister to have the following conversation:

Alyssa in a Buster Bluthe-esque voice: Hey, sister.

Kara: Hey–I’m making an apple pie, and I have a quick question.

Alyssa predicting the question: Yes?

Kara: I know what the answer is going to be…but how much sugar do you put in?

Alyssa: I always put sugar in until I think there is too much, and then I add more.



I always use Grandma Wiseman’s pie crust recipe, except I use whole wheat flour instead of white. It gives it a nice color and a nutty-ish flavor. Because I am too cheap to buy wax paper, though, the top of my pie is always kind of patchwork-ed. The bottom is, too…I might as well fess up.

A grandma in the making.

Later that weekend, I was invited to help make apple butter. I’d actually never even had apple butter before (I was too much of a I-only-eat-homemade-blackberry-jelly-kind-of-snob to ever try anything else), but I like my friends, and they have yet to make something I don’t like.

I didn’t do a whole lot in way of actually making the apple butter. I mostly talked and provided the wine. I might have stirred a few times, too.

There was a whole lot of chopping and peeling. They cooked the chopped apples with cinnamon sticks on the stove and pureed them and added brown sugar and more cinnamon and cooked it until it thickened up.

Clare made toast from homemade bread (we’re all grandmas in the making). Now that I’ve tried apple butter, I almost regret my previous attitude toward it. “Almost” because, in reality, it was out of a deep loyalty to my grandma’s homemade jelly, and therefore totally justifiable.

Three weeks ago at Farmer’s Market, I bought a 5 pound bag of apples for 3 dollars. I am still eating them. Undergrad Kara would’ve finished those apples a week and a half ago. Oh, to be young…

Resourceful, Not Pathetic.

October 8, 2010

[Mandatory “I can’t believe it’s been this long since I blogged” statement]. My current pace of life is dumb. I like what I’m studying, I just miss doing other things that I like too. Despite the fact that I just bought a great new pair of blue jeans that (for once) were not on clearance, I still feel less cool than I did this summer; I also feel less like a writer and less rested than I did this summer. I am not making a compelling case for liking what I’m doing right now, am I? I swear I do, I’m just tired. This is the first night I haven’t gotten home at 5:30 or later, immediately put on my pajama pants, and worked until 12:30 in…um…well, let’s not count the number of nights. It will only serve as evidence to my lack of coolness when compared to Summer Kara. (P.S. I know that 12:30 is not that late for grad students, but 12:30 is late for grad students who get up at 6:30. I require sleep–case closed).

Back to what I’m supposed to be talking about: the garden or garden related things. While I may not be as cool as Summer Kara, I am just as resourceful as Summer Kara. I am also creative; I hope my recent invention proves this:

So, there are these pear trees on campus near the Chi Omega Fountain. Around this time of year, the pears fall on the ground and either: a) rot or b) get eaten by squirrels. Apparently the Greeks don’t need free pears, or they haven’t figured it out yet. Last year I was convinced they were pears but I had a friend who was convinced they were not pears. I believed him and did not get any pears.

This year, though, I gave into my curiosity one day on my way home from campus.  He was wrong: I collected 7 or 8 pears. He has been wrong other times, too. It was 5:15 or so, so there was a lot of traffic. I was in my teaching clothes (aka Woody Allen in a skirt). People looked at me like I was weird for collecting pairs; I looked at them like they were weird for not collecting pears. That’s at least 4 dollars at the Farmer’s Market. It’s also a nice side for 7 or 8 meals.

A few nights later, I started craving Molly M’s warm cinnamon apples. Warm cinnamon pears? Yes. For dinner? Yes. On a salad? Sure.

I melted some butter in my cast iron skillet and started cooking sweet potatoes with minced garlic, cinnamon, salt, and dried basil. Then I threw in the pears. Then some yellow squash. And finally, chickpeas. I added more cinnamon. I added more butter.

Then I put it on top of a salad. I also made toast. I know it sounds kind of weird (chickpeas + cinnamon?), but it was really good. So good, in fact, that I sent my family an email about it, told my office mate (and probably a few other people) and made it again the next day. Roommate Katie looked at it that day at lunch and agreed that it looked delicious.Perhaps someday I’ll be good at taking blog food photos, and then you’ll actually believe me when I show you.

So, Fall Kara likes cinnamon. And she is resourceful. And she has new, nice-fitting blue jeans.  Not comparable to garden-hoeing, writing-every-day, biking-everywhere Summer Kara, but sort of cool? Kind of.