01 December 2007


I feel like I'm going backwards this week. With the method of how I'm going about this impromptu "theme week," I mean. Because today – after starting with a (minimally) involved dinner and following that with a (token) effort in a salad – I just felt like eating my apple. Unfooled around with.

So maybe I should rewind a little further and tell you why I need to not cook with this one, why these apples are special to me. It's not just because of taste. There are other apples I love, of course, (Pink Ladies, last summer's fad fruit for example). But I don't know them the way that I know Winesaps. You could say that Winesaps are in my blood.

I have a little family history story to share. Thanks to le internet and conversations with my grandmother's cousins, I know that in 1779, my maternal family first moved to Washington County, Maryland, starting the farm that I have visited twice a year since I was a child. Although the family didn't purchase the main portion of the land that's the farm I knew until 1831, the original farm house is still on the property, right next to the new(er), lived-in farm houses.

What's not on the website is Frank's crinkle-eyed smile and hugs for the too long absent Baltimore relatives when we make our pilgrimages in peach and apple seasons. Or how the name Elizabeth (who married Jacob Shatzer and lived on the farm in the 1870's) still survives as a family middle name (my mother and I share it). When I was a very little girl, there were still pigs on the farm, which I only remember because my brother Alex walked along the stone wall of their pen while I poked around their corn-cob feed pile. Of course, that story's not as well remembered as the time he got pseudo-electrocuted on the live cow pasture fence. Understandably so.

There are still some cows along the lane – which although it apparently has a real street name, I've always known it by the hand-made "Shatzer Down Lane" sign and prefer that name, honestly – but the main product of the farm these days are summer peaches and fall Winesap apples. Twice a year we journey back to our motherland up near the Pennsylvania border, returning with new histories and at least a half bushel of whatever's in season.

Before I even knew what they were called, I knew those apples as part of my extended family. And tonight they're perfect just the way they are.

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