Fall is a very busy time of year when it comes to getting upset about flavors. There is no shortage of opinions on pumpkins, or whether turkey is any good, or how to properly sauce a cranberry. Meanwhile, apples have been getting a free pass from food writers for years. “Oh, an apple,” people exclaim vaguely when presented with one. “That’s good, somehow.”
Apples are monstrous. They are monstrous when they come pre-sliced and pre-doused with citric acid in a small plastic bag; they are monstrous when shaved into a sandwich or snuck into a salad; they are monstrous by themselves and they are monstrous with cheese; they are monstrous freshly plucked from the damned tree and they are monstrous hauled out of a cellar in mid-January. Put peanut butter on it, if you like; now you have a messy apple that smells like peanut butter.
They ruin cakes, they ruin crepes. The best part of “apple spice” anything is the spice.
I will not discuss candy apples here, as that is beneath both of our dignities.
There is nothing that can be done to an apple to improve it. Remove the skin, and you have a featureless white mass, without contrast in either flavor or texture; the jicama of fruit. Leave the skin on, and it fragments and splinters and curls into maddening little shavings that take up residence between the teeth.
Go ahead. Bite an apple, whether whole or sliced. It is a disgusting simulacra of the eating process. There is something in your mouth, to be sure. Your mouth could not accurately be described as “empty.” But what is there? Grainy globs of cold, tasteless flesh. Crispy chunks that slowly melt and soften into pale gobbets of saliva-coated fiber. A peel that must be chewed a thousand times before it can be wrestled into submission and digestion. The suggestion of a memory of a flavor. And nothing. Eating an apple is a nihilist act.
An apple is an offensively virtuous food. “If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple,” as the saying goes, “then you are not really hungry.” First of all, you don’t know my life. Second of all, when has an apple ever sated real hunger? An apple is a sphere of tasteless cellulose bound together by a thick, impenetrable peel. Perhaps the kindest thing that can be said about an apple is that it is not a pear.
Perhaps the worst thing that can be said about an apple is that if you take a few bites without immediately consuming and disposing of the rest, it almost immediately collapses in upon itself, like a black hole. The edges shrivel. Your bite marks brown and then soften. The whole thing takes on the appearance of a shrunken head, which seems deliberately provocative. Apples are trash food and you are a human being. Give an apple to a cow. A cow has four stomachs, which seems like the appropriate number of stomachs to have to dedicate to demolishing the indestructible peel of the apple. Also, cows do not care what they eat, as long as it is crunchy.
Some of you, I know, do not refrigerate your apples, a choice I find inexplicable but still respect your ability to make. A cold apple can aspire to be at least inoffensive; a room-temperature apple is an affront to the front of the human face. There is nothing else I can say to you about the matter.
“But things are different now,” I hear you say. “The Red Delicious and Granny Smiths of our youth are no longer our only options.” I know, my friend. I know. I can go to any farmer’s market and buy a sack of absurd, tiny Pink Fantastics or Sunshine Dollface varietals. There is no difference. They are smaller, not better.