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When Life Gives You Apples, Make Applesauce

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APPLE AS FORBIDDEN FRUIT
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I have a day off, but I am reluctant to leave the apartment. It was a long day on the set yesterday. My pickup was 6:15 a.m. and I arrived home around 9 p.m.. Don is out of town on business. And even though, many times, when I come home from work, he is still holed up in his study working feverishly on the edits of his soon-to-be-latest-and-greatest-new-novel, I'm not lonely because I can feel him and his energy filling the air. Last night coming up in the elevator, it's like I almost forgot that he was gone. Didn't quite believe it until I stepped off the elevator and felt all that empty space around me.

The fridge was pretty bare. I toasted an ancient bagel that was lurking in the corner, applied butter, cream cheese and ham. It was edible. Toasting old things make them seem like the dryness and crunch is on purpose, and then with enough butter and cream cheese and such, it moistened up the centre to a palatable softness.

I told myself that tomorrow I would make up for such slim pickings. That I would venture out to the grocery, stroll down the aisle and purchase a feast of fresh fruits and vegetables and whatever else struck my fancy, chocolate, candy, etc.

And after I had re-stocked the fridge with abundant deliciousness, I would boldly venture out. To do what? Who knows, but it would be glorious and I would bump around Toronto, an independent woman, perhaps an art gallery, or a museum, and a luncheon for one.

But it is after three in the afternoon and I have finally stopped pretending I am going to be sashaying around the city. I rarely sashay, and the idea of starting up the whole process now is about as appealing as stepping in dog-do.

No, I am going to stay in. I am not going out.

I would have, before my desperate rummaging in the fridge turned up a few apples that had seen better days. These apples that I found in the back of the fridge were nothing to write home about, but I peeled them, plopped them into a pot, added a little water, a bit of cinnamon, some nutmeg, a tiny handful of brown sugar, squeezed half a lemon in for good measure, put a lid on the pot, turned the burner onto simmer.

And now, the stewing apples are filling the kitchen with the delicious aroma of homemade applesauce and my mouth is watering and once I finish this blog, I'm going to take a potato masher to them and then serve myself up a yummy bowl of hot applesauce.

I feel clever, because I love homemade applesauce AND I don't have to go out, because I took something that an ordinary person would throw away, or eat and resent because the yellow/peach coloured apples were mealy, and the Granny Smith, too tart. But as applesauce, those pathetic little specimens are going to be so good that when I finish eating my applesauce I might even lick the bowl, because it's just me here and nobody will know the difference.

I could have made an apple pie, but my apple pie is so good that I wouldn't have stopped with one or two pieces. By the time Don came back from his business trip I would have consumed the whole thing. Applesauce is a much better choice, tummy-wise, than devouring a whole apple pie.

That's the wonderful thing about apples, their flexibility. When they are picked in the autumn fresh off a tree, there is nothing better than sinking one's teeth into all that fresh tart crispness, and if that tree happens to be a king apple tree, even better, because then not only will there be that tart crispness, but it will be balanced with just the right amount of sweet and crunch.

There was a king apple tree by one of the houses we lived in growing up. The apples would grow as big as a newborn baby's head and just one would be a full satisfying meal.

After a long ride home from school on the bus, the other kids trading leftover treats from their overstuffed lunches, barbecue potato chips, a Mr. Big chocolate bar, a store-bought cupcake, us pretending we weren't hungry, but we were. Singing all the beautiful songs we knew, harmonies too, letting the melodies fill up the bus and us, helping to pass the time. Our bus stop was the second last on the line. Singing, so our lungs expanded into the empty spaces in our guts, our voices soaring above the hunger grumbling of our stomachs.

In autumn, there was the bounty of the king apple tree to look forward to, on the mile and a half walk from the bus stop to our home. Up the high road (it was a dirt road back then -- didn't even warrant gravel), then onto our long drive, down the hill, across the creek, up the other side to the blue house with the glorious apple tree just to the left of the front steps. If we were real hungry, we would go straight to it, one of us would kick off our shoes and clamber up, soles of our feet, toes clinging to the rough bark. Up we'd go to pick the best apples, the ones not riddled with too many wormholes, and toss them down into the waiting outstretched shirts or skirts of our sisters. And then we would eat the delicious apples. And those apples, oh god, the best I've ever had, so juicy, crisp, tart, sweet, the combination, irresistible. When I'd finish one of those apples I'd have to wash my face and hands because they would be so sticky and covered in juice, forearms too sometimes.

And today, when I was cutting the apples for my pot of applesauce, I was reminded of my childhood, and on the heels of that my thoughts turned to a scene we shot my second day on the Bomb Girls set. The script had called for me to be chopping carrots, but the emotionality of the scene was delicate and the carrots hard and the knife from the 1940s that Sang Maier from props had provided was dull and the force required to cut through the carrots was jarring and wrong for the scene. I asked if he had a knife sharpener so I could sharpen the knife? If there was perhaps something softer I could cut? I asked, not because I expected him to have either of those items. It was the act of a desperate woman. Bomb Girls is a period show. It is a Canadian show. There are not oodles of idle cash floating around, although, from the look this production team has created, you would never know, every department going above and beyond. Wardrobe, makeup and hair, the sets, everything stunning: the detail and care that everyone is taking, the personal pride is evident. And I have to say Eric Cayla the DP is a genius. Truly, the way he and his crew are lighting the sets? Amazing. And believe me, I've worked with some of the world's greats and this guy is right up there with them.

But as I was chopping the apples this morning, it was Sang I was thinking of, and how somehow, without any fuss, he produced period apples, a lot of them. Even though there was no mention of them in the script. Period apples that weren't perfect and were slightly soft as they should be, and he sharpened the knife and I chopped those apples for the wide shot, the two shot, the over-the-shoulder, the close-ups, the inserts of my hands, the fragrance of apples filling the set.

And I thought too about the scene we shot last night, and how I enter the locker room with a bucket and a rag and how when Sang handed me the bucket the water in the bucket was hot. Every take, fresh hot water, because he had climbed inside my character's mind and knew that if she was going to wash someone she would have put warm water in the bucket. It was a gift that water, centering me in her body. A gift I hadn't imagined, hadn't asked for, extra work for him, and who would notice? It wouldn't show up on screen. No one would know if that water was hot or lukewarm or cold? No one would know, no one did but me and perhaps the person I was washing?

That is what I was thinking about this morning, chopping the apples: about Sang and how his commitment and work ethic is indicative of everyone on the crew. And how lucky I feel, because working in an environment like that makes it a joy, every day, to step onto the set.

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