Monday, October 20, 2008

D'You Like Apples?

How do you like these apples?

The girls, Molly and I headed out to Riley Farms in Oak Glen, past Yucaipa (Where? Who knows) to go apple picking on Saturday. It was about a two hour drive straight east for us, with traffic of course, to a virtual no man's land as far as we coast-huggers were concerned. Before we left, the morning looked like this: 7:30am we went to Mina's volleyball game for some sluggish hilarity -- the short of it is that any nine year old who can serve the ball over the net will earn the point because hitting it back they have not yet mastered. Then we were off to Mina's TaeKwonDo studio where Maya had already taught the 9:30am lil white belt class. Kick, kick, block, block, yadi, yadi, then we were off to Maya's volleyball game where the kids demonstrated a little more skill than I had expected. Maya looked very self conscious on the v-ball court, bummed that she's not automatically fantastic at every athletic endeavor she attempts, even when she's never done it before nor knows any rules or ins and outs. I said, "What, you going out for the Olympics already in this? Catch yourself a break and have a good time." She was like, Oh, ok. She didn't play badly on Saturday, I thought.

Mina's game.

Maya's game. Then finally, we were off, towards Yucaipa and other unknown regions of Southern California for the much anticipated apple picking. We drove past downtown, past east LA, then we entered Illinois, I think. 50 miles outside of LA is pretty much middle America. You may find it surprising - I know I do and I'm from here - that California is not all wheatgrass drinkers and surfers or actors and film makers. Nope. We've got some salt of the earth right here too; enlightened and ignorant salt just like everybody else. We exited the freeway and followed the Yes on 8 signs all the way up to the farm. This made me cringe. For those not from Cali, Prop 8 is trying to eliminate same-sex marriage laws that were so hard won here not too long ago. No on 8 would keep same-sex marriages, Yes on 8 "upholds traditional marriage" and squashes the rights of others. This is a very heated topic here. In Santa Monica, No on 8 signs abound. In Orange County, where I work, I was taken aback when I saw the first Yes on 8 bumper sticker. Then I heard about the rallies where people stand on street corners -- for the Lord and family, don't you know -- and wave Yes on 8 signs. They've even been going door to door! And I thought, why is so much time and money being invested to take something away from someone else? Why is this time and money not going into good works for god or Jesus, if that's their agenda, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and the like. I truly believe Jesus shakes his head at this kind of hate-mongering or right-blocking. He must be thinking, You really missed the point, y'all.

After a windy, uphill drive on a sidewalkless road, we arrived at the farm which was crowded and teaming with families holding brown bags that spilled apples . The grounds were gorgeous and the staff was dressed in pioneer-days style. I looked out onto the pumpkin patch, noting the spectrum of sizes; huge and lopsided squash to small and round ones with curved, ridged stems. The day was crisp, but warm still and the dots of orange in the field held hands with the blue of the sky. I saw a cute blond boy about four with a cap weaving around pumpkins. When he turned around, I saw that his parents had stuck a YES ON 8 round sticker to the back of his shirt. I looked around at the crowd suspiciously. I then noticed a Yes on 8 banner stabbed in the dirt at the entrance of the farm, and this all made me on edge.

But we wandered out into the fields then, past the endless baby strollers and pods of families wearing matching jean shorts, and the trees put me at ease. The dirt comforted me. Molly and I found ourselves repeating, "Nature is awesome" a hundred times. The girls picked up walking sticks and ran along the path. Mina threatened to chuck her stick a few times, announcing, "Look, I'm a javelin thrower." I wasn't sure if watching so much Olympic coverage was such a good thing.

As a city girl, my idea of apple trees comes from illustrated fantasies of them; an Adam and Eve type tree, lush and full, thick-trunked with a bush of green leaves and low-hanging fruit. I hid my disappointment when I first saw the main orchard. It was a quiet disappointment still charged with the excitement of pulling fruit from the life source. We strolled up to a scrawny tree which had a puddle of fresh and decaying apples at the foot of the trunk. Some of the fruit on the ground looked perfectly fine, others were browned and flattened, returning to the dirt. The tree branches looked stripped and dry. Trees leaned this way and that. Then I looked up, and there they were. Apples clustered together like hanging jewels! I felt like we had stumbled upon a secret treasure. They lit up the brittle branches, and the trees did not look the same then. They were not scrawny at all; not dry or leaning or little. They were perfect; giving and beautiful and perfect. Nature is awesome.

This farm was not an organic one. This was a bit unsettling to both Molly and I and we were told that the trees get sprayed twice a year. We found some comfort that bugs still seemed part of the natural process. We saw plenty of bees and spiders and other bugs I can't identify. At first I wasn't going to let the girls eat any of our chemical-laden bounty until I had soaked them in vinegar first, but as we skipped back down the path with baskets and bags full of apples, we couldn't resist them. I rubbed each little apple on my jeans roughly and kissed it to the sky. Down the hatch. Good god, they were amazing. Chemicals and all. We ended up eating about four each and they were all great, the small ones, the ugly ones, the medium ones; all were sweet and snappy. Our faces lit up each time we took a bite, like it was a surprise every single time. When Molly bit into her first apple, she said, "This is the best thing I've ever put into my mouth." I had to agree. We were all under the apples' spell. She took two more bites and then accidentally dropped the apple onto the dirt path. We all stopped and stared at the apple for what seemed like an eternity, mourning its perfectness. Molly picked it up. The exposed white apple flesh was spotted with sticks and dirt, and I could see it run through her mind how the apple could be salvaged. We did too. "Let's just rinse it off somewhere," we suggested. We earnestly tried to solve this dilemma for a good five minutes because the fruit seemed so precious to us now; we understood what a gift it was. Finally Molly tossed the dusty apple over the side of the path. "Back to the earth," she said.

By the end of the day, all my nervousness about the people we were among had dissolved. I didn't even notice them or the hate signs by then. The apples and the sky and our little pod of love was all that mattered. I could only imagine that nature would soften their resolve too, melt away a little of their stand to block others right to be, to love. Ah, nature makes me sentimental, makes me appreciate the simplicity and strength of generosity. Back to the earth indeed.

Here are some pic's from our day. Molly taking photos of wildflowers. I spent most of yesterday baking, which I haven't done in a while. But what's a sister to do with a bushel full of apples? Is it obvious to say peeling and chopping and baking hand-pick apples delivers a type of satisfaction deeper than one experiences regularly? Eating the goods brought no less satisfaction. I sop up every photo taken from the experience.

Vegan apple pie, my favorite meal of all time.

Vegan turnovers, my second favorite meal.


Lisl said...

Any chance you could share the vegan pie and turnover recipes?? Or at least the source so I could look them up? By the way, I love the photo toward the end of the three of you walking away through the orchard--the light is beautiful!

Reuven said...

Please see this NO ON 8 message from Christian Minister Joe Baytzim. No on 8

madness rivera said...

Hey Lisl,
I've posted the crust recipe before here: (I converted it from a Bobby Flay recipe a while ago, and it's amazing):

As for the filling, I mushed a few recipes together. I tried something new this time. I tried adding apple jelly:

7-8 apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
3TBSP of flour
2TBSP of apple jelly or jam
2TBSP of lemon juice, fresh
1/3 - 2/3 c. sugar (I go back and forth all the time on this)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of cloves
big pinch of sea salt

Preheat 400 degrees. Mix all together (I let it sit for an hour to soften and marinate the apples), fold into crust. Cover the outter crust with foil for the first 25min, then cook another 20-25min. Let cool and stand 3 hours on a rack.

Hi Reuven, good to see you're No on 8 . . .how ev er, this prop isn't about Mormons vs. Christians, but upholding the rights of all human beings.

Anonymous said...

You remind me of apple picking in upstate new york. Of course, we never went in tank tops! It's sweaters and sturdy boots at this time of year. Upstate is a very liberal place, but while apple picking, we used to shudder passing by the shanties on the edge of the farm property. Even in New York, the majority of the harvest is collected by illegal and ill-compensated migrant workers. Politics and apples mix on both sides of the country, it seems.

Anonymous said...

PS Rev. Joe is creepy

madness rivera said...

Oh yea, tank tops! HA, I didn't about think how that probably looks to my east coast crew. And yea, what's up with Rev Joe? HAha.

greenish gold said...

The baked goods are beautiful. It was very interesting to me to read your day's account, because we live that way regularly, you know? Out here in the heartland.

The boy and I went to the beach about 10 days ago and kept saying, "God, it's so awesome!" We do the same thing when we go to a city bigger than Lansing. HA!

losriosfan said...

Next trip to Oak Glen, try Los Rios Rancho. They're organic (not certified, since some of the other area farms spray), and grow over 20 varieties of thr tastiest apples around.

madness rivera said...

Great, thanks Los Rios.

Jinxi Boo said...

Ooooooh, your description of the apple orchard and smells and sights was just brilliant! I loved it!

I also adore the delicious photos and wish I could reach right through the screen for a nibble =)

Thank you for writing about Prop 8 too. It is truly BEYOND FRUSTRATING how much money & power the "Yes" side has. It astounds me. Since we live in the Inland Empire, we are in the minority with our "No on 8" signs in our yard... but we are trying still =)

You rock, girl! Loved this fun post!
Winx, Jinxi

Jinxi Boo said...

PS: I love that photo of the green apple hanging and the bushel below. It's fantastic!!

I might also have to hit you up for the pie recipe. Oh my, oh my... it looks yummy!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't wait! Went ahead and read the blog. Loved it! I love that pic of Mina with the blue sky and pumpkins in the background. I hadn't seen that one! And holy cow your pie looks killer! Great picture. My house smells like apples today as the dehydrator is drying some apple cookies. So fun to figure out how to use up all the goodies. See you! And thanks again for taking me!

madness rivera said...

Thanks Jinxi, I love that green-apple photo too. Molly took it, on her iPhone no less. And I put the recipe to the pie up higher in the comments here if you wanna check it out.

Thanks Molly. We had a great time with you too. Can't wait to see your post about it! I don't tire looking at the basket of apples even as they dwindle. Do you?

Marigoldie said...

This sweet post moved me big time. How I wish you could have been with us at Hector's in TN, wandering through all kinds of orchards and grazing -- apples, muscadines, blueberries, raspberries, kiwis -- and picking up chestnuts off the ground. It's all organic out there, and it feels like the wonderland of your imagination. And it's easy to feel reverent for it too. I know what you mean. XO.

madness rivera said...

I wish I coulda too, Marigoldie, sounds perfect. Love.

tara whitney said...

hey stranger-
i love your description of your day, including the yes on 8 signs....still so so upset about that loss.
hope you are all well. you sound it! :)