The Marvel of Malus domestica

A delight of mine for the last while is a return to the local farmers market that had been my 7 AM go-to every Saturday. Like everything else, the experience is now different—no lingering, little in the way of coffee, fewer vendors, etc. However, a meander through continues to be a source of culinary inspiration and a heady aesthetic pleasure. The vendors at Farmhouse Foods display their vegetables in bright royal blue bins—an amazing backdrop for the oranges, greens, reds, whites, yellows… Others stack bundles of onions in ways reminiscent of the ancient aqueducts in Segovia. The sun generously floods the huge open space and highlights peach fuzz and pear contour as well as drawing my eye toward the spectacular uniqueness of kohlrabi. Every week, I seem to leave with a new bag of edible Legos…vitamin-packed multi-coloured building blocks for meals…

Thanks to local farms and orchards (Noggins Farm) one of the specific pleasures I have begun to enjoy is the sampling of apple varieties. Last year, I waxed rhapsodic about the Cox Orange Pippin and I am looking forward to their return in the latter part of this season. In the meanwhile, I have sampled a new cultivar of the Malus domestica known as the Paula Red. It was a worthy wait of fifty years for this taste of autumnal joy. On the medium-small side, juicy, crisp, and with a taste as though a strawberry and an apple made nice with each other. I had cut one and taken it in the car with a friend who would hand me a wedge now and then while we were on a road trip. Every time, I’d proclaim my delight at the sheer pleasure of tasting such a thing.

It is about more than the taste, though. It is also the delight that an apple in its apple-ness is both so common and so capable of being much more nuanced than I can imagine. And the experience, the pleasure, of that nuance is readily accessible through multiple senses. Visual appreciation of the beautiful diversity of shading; the linguistic pleasure of some of the names of the varietals; the different textures of flesh; how each one reacts to the application of heat; the unique flavour profiles… And all of this is accessible, one piece of fruit at a time.

I can not help but consider each proclamation of amazement for every nibble and crunch, a prayer of thanksgiving for being alive, for having senses, for delight that does not deny what is large and looming but rather seeks nourishment from what is simple and close to the ground.

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