Monday, October 05, 2009


    "Calville Blanc d'Hiver (1598) Antique variety from France, where it was grown in the king's gardens at Orleans; one of the premier gourmet apples still served for dessert in the finer Parisian restaurants; tart, strong, distinctive flavor."
I'm back. I was in San Diego for a sort 0f executive retreat/seminar thingy, the Outdoor Industry Rendezvous. An annual event, some 350 industry folks get together and network (a word I hate -- can't someone please come up with something better?) and participate in discussions and board meetings and hear some amazing speakers, like Kevin Carroll and Erik Weihenmayer.

It is a brain-stretching event, and I now have to go back to my office and comb through a giant pile of bills and checks, and delete 500 emails. Hardly high-order thinking. But it was great, and it was, after all, in San Diego.

Having been born and raised in So Cal, several of the conference attendees were curious how I, having been born a few miles from where we were staying, ended up in Madison, Wisconsin.

    "Chenango Strawberry, 1800s, Chenango county, New York.
    Delicate, beautiful variety with fragrance resembling roses."
Simple, really. I came for the apples. Not the apples per se, but what they represent.

You need to understand that California has two seasons; Green and Brown. The Green Season is pretty much November and December, sometimes stretching into January. The rest of the year is Brown season.

There is very little to mark the passage of time on a grander scale than the circadian rhythm. Weeks flow into each other and the idea of a cool fall fades from memory. My buddy Chris moved to California last year in October. "It just sorta stayed October," he said over dinner last Sunday night.

"Zaubergau Reinette (1880, Wurtenberg, Germany)
Largest of the russet apples with crisp white flesh and nutty flavor."

So yeah, California is weird. Not to say it wasn't pleasant to visit; I got out every day, usually twice) to get in some longboarding with the Big Stick. Won't be able to do that in Wisconsin for a bit. After a few days, however, I was ready to come home.

As I write this there is a large bowl of apples to my left. Occasionally one of the apples will embolden itself and throw off a little apple scent. There are five varieties of apples in the bowl; none of them are found in a grocery store, and while they're all apples, they range from sweet to tart, crisp to tender. They have subtleties the Red Delicious (well, they're half-right) and other long-distance apples lack.

At some point in the past 50 or 75 years, someone decided that we needed to breed durability into apple flavors so we could reach a world-wide market. They did so, and in so doing they bred out most of the taste. The problem my little apples have is that they can't travel very well, either drying out or bruising. 80 miles from Weston's is fine.

"Tolman Sweet (1750, New York) Light yellow,
faintly russetted, fall apple. The sweetest apple grown."

I don't mean to criticize Californians, really. They can't help it. They are, in some respects, a weaker strain of the human race. They don't know what they're missing. There is very little that is subtle about California, from its Governor to its produce. Quantity, not quality, seems to be the rule of the day in So Cal, and you can keep your quantity. Quality is what works for me.

Pink Pearl (1944, California). Named for the pink flesh which is hidden just beneath its yellow exterior. Crisp, tart, and aromatic, with a hint of grapefruit in the taste. Late summer variety, ripening in August and September

Next week's apples will be a different variety altogether. Cornish Gilleflowers, one of my favorites, is due out this week. I can't wait.

Respectfully submitted,


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