Anyone who knows me would say I’m a planner. I enjoy the comfort of a detailed course of action. It can be as simple as what we’ll be eating for dinner or how we’ll spend a Saturday afternoon. Failure to plan is a plan to fail. That sounds so rigid and prescriptive, I know. I’m not as much of a killjoy as I’m painting myself to be. But there is a deep, gratifying sense of security in knowing that someone (usually me, but not always) has mapped out at least a rough sketch in an attempt to make the best of a situation, greatly reducing the possibility of uncertainty. Of course, you know what they say about the best laid plans…
A real test of character happens when plans don’t go as intended. When I became a parent for the first time nearly seven years ago, I was introduced to this cardinal rule of parenthood – you no longer have control! your plans are for naught! – under the rudest of circumstances. I had planned to deliver a full term baby. Naturally, of course. I had planned to bring a neatly packed bag to the hospital, including a camera with fully-charged battery and a carefully-scanned baby name book reduced to just one or two possibilities. I had planned to look rosy-cheeked and happy when visitors popped into my room while I was quietly nursing my very hungry new baby. But instead, I went careening face-first down my stairs three weeks ahead of my due date. Before I could process what happened, I was staring up at the ceiling of a harshly lit operating room while a team of doctors in green scrubs worked quickly to cut my son from my no-longer-safe womb. Andy snapped a couple pictures before the camera, with its battery on the last sliver of power, died. No one’s face showed more shock at this turn of events than the infant himself, who would remain nameless for the next several days. He would refuse to nurse, choosing instead to sleep peacefully curled into a tight ball while shrinking before my bleary eyes. Goodbye, calculated life. Hello, mayhem.
I am now more accustomed to the implosion of my plans. This is not to say I don’t get rattled when things go awry, but it’s now to be expected that events may not always happen as I hope they will. Take this past week, for example. The kids were out of school for Columbus Day. I planned to take them apple picking at a farm about an hour outside the city. We packed a picnic lunch, picked up friends to join us and headed out to the orchards. We planned to take a hayride and choose pumpkins from the patch. We planned to visit the animals at the farm’s small petting area. I had taken them to this very orchard the previous Columbus day. We had a lovely time. We brought home apples and pumpkins, a few of each. End of story.
But on this day, the kids were particularly giddy. What I hadn’t planned on was the unbridled enthusiasm the children would show for removing sun-kissed, dewy fruit from amply stocked, tightly clustered trees. They spun around left and right – so many beautiful apples, just two chubby little hands with which to yank them! As they giggled and flitted from tree to tree, I gently reminded them we would be buying all the apples we picked and that we would need to have a plan for them. They began to shout out their ideas. Pie! Candy apples! Applesauce! Cake! Tarte tatin (okay, that was my suggestion). They were full of sugary sweet ideas. And their glee was intoxicating.
They kept on picking, aggressively filling first their arms then plastic-lined buckets. When the buckets overflowed, they began placing the apples in the wheelbarrow we’d pushed into the orchard to carry the buckets. As I was fooling around with my camera trying to document all this good fun, the containers had all filled and overflowed. And they kept going. I tried in vain to slow them down, and eventually to stop them. But they were so excited and proud. And so darned cute. So I let it happen. It was only when I had to load 49 pounds of apples into the back of my car that I realized I’d better formulate a new plan. (To be clear, my friend took home the 20 pounds her kids had picked leaving me with a mere 29.) If life gives you apples, make…
Indian Raisin Curry. For dinner. That’s what we made the day we returned with a load of apples. The version I make uses chicken, but I’ve included instructions to make it vegan, too. We also made caramel apples with a silly little kit I picked up at the farm’s market. As you can see from the photo above, the caramel discs were not nearly big enough for these robust Pink Ladies. But the kids didn’t seem to mind. We played around with an apple crisp recipe (not ready for prime time, but I’ll continue to work on it) and cut up apples for muesli in the morning. We blended apples into soup (my favorites are this one and this one). We snacked on them. I brought a bundle to work to share with my colleagues. We gave some to our babysitter. And our neighbor. I had to go back to the apple feature week I posted previously to remember how I built a week’s worth of recipes around this humble fruit. Seeing that lineup also reminded me that spaghetti squash is in season and that I’d like to make that one night next week.
What do you do with a monstrous pile of apples? Tell me below in the comments box. I have at least another 10 pounds to work through and I think it’s time you share your terrific ideas with me. Okay, go!