Praise the lard

Sprinkle of water. Speck of cinnamon ...

By L.E. Leone

CHEAP EATS The problem is, I don't like applesauce. The solution is to start liking applesauce. There is no other way, given the ridiculous bounty of Sonoma County's apple harvest this year, plus the clanking, cavernous, empty chill I feel every time I open my checkbook.

I have two apple trees in my chicken yard. Since I wandered and roamed all summer and most of the fall, missing blackberries, missing peaches, missing the pears I poach from a tree down the street and the grapes I borrow from all of the vineyards around here, I am especially determined to use my millions and millions of apples — even the ones that have already fallen and have worms swizzle-sticking out of them since there ain't no chickens yet to see to this.

I don't like apple cider. I don't like apple juice. Apple pie is not my favorite kind of pie. I mean, I eat applesauce, but it's not a thing to get all excited about, like beet greens or getting to ride up front.

What I do like is apples — crunchy, juicy, crisp, ripe apples. In my hand, while I'm sitting in the tree, under it, or on a ladder. So I eat what I can, and I hand apples to people, like on the train. Or at Sockywonk's art opening, when I went around the room and handed everyone an apple from my tree.

There's something sexy about handing someone an apple.

I'm not religious, but sometimes a crazy-ass Bible story can point to something worth something in real life too, like how Jesus turned water into wine, and the next thing you know the French are making French toast out of stale bread. I myself have turned cream into butter, and my brother hammered spigots into trees and turned goo into maple syrup.

Voilà: breakfast!

To hand someone an apple is to say, Take a walk on the wild side!

Whereas there's nothing at all sexy about applesauce. It's baby food. It's windfall, it's "drop," it's old. It's easy to make. Just cut 'em up and cook 'em. Last year I made and canned a load of applesauce, and, so I wouldn't have to eat it, I gave it all away. And no one made love to me. Well, that's not true, but it was meat related. It had nothing to do with applesauce.

The year before that it was apple chutney, which didn't go over so well with the Thanksgiving turkey. I've made and canned apple barbecue sauce too. It's okay.

This year I am determined to learn to like applesauce.

Now, the number one tried-and-true all-time best way to start liking a thing that you didn't like before, everybody knows, is to put bacon in it. I looked online, but none of the applesauce recipes had bacon in them. Cinnamon. Sugar. One said honey, but the closest any of them came to bacon was butter. I didn't look real close. Anyway, the lesson of Jesus is to not use recipes. I shut down my computer and galloped into town to buy me some bacon.

My mother wonders if the serpent that spoke to Eve in the Bible story was perhaps actually honey, oozing out of a hive and slithering down the tree of life. Never mind that honey is even less likely to learn a language than snakes are — my mother has been wondering this now, she admitted to me recently, for at least 30 years.

I think she's brilliant. And persistent. Yet flexible. Thirty years ago, for example, she was keeping bees and eating honey instead of sugar. Honey was good for you. Now it's the root of all evil.

I never liked honey, and I found out recently that neither does Ruth Reichl, and neither did M.F.K. Fisher. So that's my literary mom and grandma (they shudder and turn over, respectively, at the thought) and now my mom-mom too.

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