They say that smelling is half of tasting, but that can’t be true because three other senses are also involved in the all-inclusive sensory experience of eating. Enter your imagination and try to recall your favorite food memories. Taste and smell are crucial components, but sight and touch and sound are essential as well.
For example, some of my favorite food memories don’t involve taste or smell at all. I used to watch my dad eat breakfast in the morning. He would have toast with butter or apple butter, and would sit at the table with a mug of hot coffee and his newspaper. There was something about the way he would take a bite from a buttery slice of toast that invariably drooped down in the center, fold over a page of the newspaper and then take a long audible sip of coffee. It looked like the best meal in the world. I fully enjoyed the experience without tasting a morsel myself.
I have many voyeuristic food memories like that including watching: the way Denzel Washington chews his gum in Remember the Titans, or death discovering peanut butter, or Babette preparing her feast…and who knew that even this grotesque concoction could seem enticing? And food in literature opens up a whole other world of sensual experience that I’ll need to devote many posts to in the future.
Or sometimes it’s the texture of the food that gives it its charm. My grandma used to make a quick breakfast for me when I went to her house that she must have learned during wartime or the great depression or some such period when creativity was a necessary aid for scrimping on ingredients to make something out of nothing. She’d combine together one poached egg with some butter and a hunk of bread in a pan and then put everything into a mug and hand it over with a fork. To me it seemed like quite a decadent little feast, and I think most of the appeal came from the combination of textures: fluffy eggs, toasty bread, and hints of butter. The same can be said about my childhood obsession with the tapioca pudding my mom used to bring home, where half the pleasure consisted in savoring the slippery feel of the little tapioca pearls before swallowing them down with their surrounding clouds of creamy pudding.
So what does all this have to do with today’s treat? Well nothing much except that the wonderful potency of the fragrant cinnamony apples brings back memories of Thanksgiving mornings when we used to borrow the oven of our neighbors who were away in order to accommodate all the cooking required to host a Thanksgiving army of people. Our house smelled like roasting turkey and sounded like chaos and March of the Wooden Soldiers (which plays each Thanksgiving at 9am), while the neighbors’ house was empty and quiet and smelled like apple pie. It was fun running back and forth with my mom to check on the cooking process, and escape and re-enter the mayhem of home.
So there’s nothing more to say about these baked apples except to note that they hit up all five senses. They smell like all the best apple baking aroma memories. Each bite holds a treasure trove of texture varieties. They taste like comfort and home. They look like the best of autumn, and they give a pleasing little crunchy chew.
4 apples of your choice
1/3 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup crushed walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter (if you want to make these vegan, just leave out the butter)
Preheat the oven to 375° Core and hollow out the apples while leaving their exteriors in tact. Dice the interior of the apples and mix with all the ingredients except the butter. Stuff each apple. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with water and place them upright inside the dish. Top each one with a pat of butter and bake for 35 minutes. Serve warm. Enjoy!
PS> A bonus treat for making it through the post. Watch this video of a Norwegian guy finding the caches of food that he hid for himself after days of arctic hiking.