Lately, I’ve been missing my dad a lot. I think of him a lot in the fall. I think it has something to do with his love of apple picking, his obsession with football, and his penchant for referring to our neighbor as a “Schmuck” throughout the months of September, October, and November for raking/blowing his leaves onto our property. Inevitably, this segued nicely into stronger language as he struggled to right our Christmas trees in December.
Some of my best and funniest memories of and with my dad involve food (or getting food, rather). We’d go to Point Judith and get lobsters right off the boats when they came in for the day. My dad would open the cooler when we got home and let my brother Josh and I observe them as he and my mom prepared the rest of the dinner. He’d pick them up and pretend that they’d bitten him, causing us to shriek with laughter.
One year he very suddenly became obsessed with fishing, bought all sorts of fancy equipment and took me and my brother all over Rhode Island, teaching us how to bait hooks and cast the line out. He caught pounds and pounds of blue fish. It really was a shame that none of us liked it. It got to the point where my mom would groan every time he brought home his latest catch. He had to stop simply because we were running out of room in the giant freezer in the garage!
Then there was the purple chicken incident when he was still learning how to cook and had added red wine to his chicken. He had breaded it first for a nice coating and the red wine turned the coating and the sauce BRIGHT PURPLE. Even my mom was trying not to laugh. Subsequently, he also turned purple when Josh and I refused to eat it. I relented eventually. It really was quite tasty.
We’d watch “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (Shut up!) together some nights and every Monday night, he’d settle in to watch football downstairs in our finished basement. He’d have a bottle of diet Pepsi (he was in “his office” as he called it, and didn’t bother with such a formality as a glass) in one hand and sometimes a bowl of popcorn in the other. I’d sneak past my mom (hooray for deaf parents!) and go downstairs and sit next to him. He always shared his popcorn and we’d sit side by side. Those were the rare times he didn’t send me back to bed because it was a school night.
Every fall we’d go apple picking and to get cider at Jaswell’s farm. My mom is terrified of snakes lurking in the tall grass of the orchards, so my dad would walk ahead and stomp wildly along the path, sometimes whilst also dramatically beating the ground with a stick he’d find. “See? All clear!” he’d shout back. He’d encourage us to pick and eat as many apples as we could right off the tree without getting sick- “They’re free if you’re eating them here! Why not?” he’d say and my mom would roll her eyes (often as she sank her teeth into the ripe flesh of a macintosh). My brother Josh and I would pick the low hanging apples and he’d get the ones that seemed sky high to us- I was convinced that those tasted better and he’d hand me one to munch on and then put five or six in the bag. It continued like that for an hour or so and then we’d pay for our apples, our hands sticky and our stomachs full. Since he died, apple picking has become almost sacred to me- it’s a link to him.
My mom’s favorite thing to make with our loot? Apple crisp. Over the years, I’ve put my own spin on it. Last night I made it for my mom and step-dad. Check this out:
4 Large Apples
1 cup oats
2 cup Graham Crackers, crushed into crumbs
1/3 cup and 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
1/2 cup raw almonds
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp lemon juice (fresh is best!)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1. Peel, core and dice your apples. You want the apples to be small and evenly chopped so that they cook evenly.
2. Add lemon juice, 2 tbsp sugar and cinnamon to apples, mixing throroughly and set aside to let the flavors marinate as you make the crust/crumble.
3. In a blender, combine the almonds, remaining sugar, oats, brown sugar, 6 tbsp of butter, and graham crackers. The end result? A crumbly mixture, that, when pinched in your fingers, sticks together.
4. Use half of the graham cracker mixture and pressing it into a dish (you can use a 9×9 pan or, as I used, a 10×5 (approx) oval baking dish), form a crust on the bottom, like so:
5. Next come those delicious, lemon, sugar and cinnamon soaked apples…
6. Then sprinkle the rest of the crust/crumble all over the top of the apples. Then, make Paula Deen proud and using the remaining 2 tbsp of butter, place pats of butter around the crust. See below:
7. Place in oven for 30 minutes. To test readiness, put a sharp knife through the dish and if it goes through easily, and the apples are cooked, it’s ready! For maximum tastiness, serve with ice cream while warm. Enjoy!
Have a great day, everyone.