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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in apples

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Rites of Autumn

I asked a friend what family wisdom he felt he'd inherited from his ancestors.

“Work hard and live frugally,” he said. “And when times are good, set aside a little something for when they're not; for hard times will certainly come.”

Well, it's October in Minnesota, and that means that hard times are certainly on the way.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Back to School Partay

Fall Equinox is so tantalizingly close you can taste it. Whether you are a parent who routinely coaches homework, or a "non-traditional" returning bookworm yourself, fall is a glorious time of year. Truth be told, I geek out every year over needing to purchase new school supplies. Often noted as everyone's favorite season because of its best-of-both-worlds weather, rich warm hues in clothing and nature, and an excuse to overindulge in all things scented pumpkin – this is the perfect time for a get together to overindulge with pals in tow. Here's how:

Compile a playlist of several school-themed movie soundtracks: "Breakfast Club," "Dazed and Confused," and "Valley Girl," are just a few that immediately come to mind. "Rock 'n' Roll High School," and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," are other excellent selections.

If folks are game, have everyone dress as an archetype from high school: cheerleader, jock, nerd, drama club weirdo, hippie teacher, hard-ass principal. Dress to reconnect with your former teenage self, or to indulge a fantasy of what it may have been like to be someone else for a day. Let this be a warm-up for Halloween.

One word for food fare: apples. They are so succulent/tasty/lovely/tart/juicy at this time of year, no one can get enough of them. Cut up slices to accompany various cheese plates with grape garnishes, and make them the dipping favorites for a caramel apple sauce centerpiece. If you're feeling ambitious, bake a homemade pie. And by all means, break out the hard cider. Assemble "after-school snacks" of "Ants on a Log," (celery, peanut butter and raisins on top), or "Lincoln Logs Sandwiches." Do not be shy about breaking out a package of Totino's Pizza Rolls or a fresh bag of Cheddar Combos. Believe me, people will delight in the nostalgia.

For other gimmicky fun, create an initiation to gain entry to your event. If leaning more toward a college theme, pop in a DVD of "Animal House." Create a drinking game where everyone does a shot whenever John Belushi  as Bluto pulls a crazy stunt onscreen (food fight, breaking dude's guitar). I leave you with this from the FoodChannel Editor:

"WHAT IS A LINCOLN LOG SANDWICH?

"Question: I was watching the 'Sopranos' and saw Carmella making a dish which she called Lincoln logs. I am curious, what are they? They looked good, so how do you make them what are some of the ingredients?

"Answer: Lincoln Logs (as seen on the 'Sopranos') are apparently hot dog buns or white bread, in which you place hot dogs layered with cream cheese. They can be served warm or cold. They are also known as Seattle Cream Cheese Dogs, although the Lincoln Logs variety is said to be an East Coast version. The basic recipe appears to be:

Take a slice of white bread, spread cream cheese on it, split a cooked hot dog lengthwise and place each half, cut side down, on the bread. To get the Lincoln Log effect, you may need a second hot dog that is laid over the first in the other direction. Some versions appear to mix a little mayonnaise with the cream cheese for spreading ease. You can lightly toast the bread or add a piece of American cheese before adding the spread and hot dog.

"Or, you can try the standard Seattle recipe as found at All Recipes."

Resources:

Photo, "Early Morning," by Carlos Porto at freedigitalphotos.net

FoodChannel Editor. What is a Lincoln Log Sandwich. Foodchannel. The Food Channel®. April 30, 2008.  http://www.foodchannel.com/articles/article/what-is-a-lincoln-log-sandwich/

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Cicada Song

Well, it's almost here: the time of year that they named the Summerland for.

The apples ripe and fragrant on the branches, and overhead in the trees, that unmistakable, piercing, electric drone.

Welcome to the Season of the Cicada.

Around here they say that the cicadas call only when it's 80° or warmer: clothing-optional weather. To judge from my own experience, this may well be true.

The name comes from the Romans, by way of the French. Before that, say the etymologists, it was a “Mediterranean” word. Who knows? It may even be Minoan.

Because cicadas, like snakes, shed their skins as they grow, and because their nymphs incubate in the earth and pop forth whole and all, they're associated in the Received Tradition with rebirth and immortality. Fittingly do they sing to the dead in the orchards of that Other World.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Golden Apples of the Sun

Robert Graves' novel Hercules, My Shipmate, his iconoclastic retelling of the tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece, opens with an encounter with the Orange Nymph, priestess of the sacred Orange Grove, on Majorca, the Balearic island off the Mediterranean coast of Spain, which Graves portrays as a last bastion of matriarchal civilization and Goddess worship in a rapidly patriarchalizing world.

Rather archly he explains:

The orange is a round, scented fruit, unknown elsewhere in the civilized world, which grows green at first, then golden, with a hot rind and cold, sweet, sharp flesh. It is found on a smooth tree with glossy leaves and prickly branches, and ripens in mid-winter, unlike any other fruit. It is not eaten indiscriminately in Majorca, but once a year only, at the winter solstice, after ritual chewing of buckthorn and other herbs; thus eaten, it confers long life. At other times, the slightest taste of an orange will result in immediate death, so sacred a fruit is it; unless the Orange Nymph herself dispenses it (Graves 4).

This tongue-in-cheek passage is doubly a send-up. In it, the mythological Island of the Hesperides with its legendary Golden Apples of Life become a real-world place—in fact, the island on which Graves made his home for most of his adult life—and a real-world fruit. Likewise, Graves is satirizing a longstanding British custom: generations of English kids grew up with that exotic and expensive Southron fruit, the orange, tucked into the toe of their Christmas stocking.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Contract with Death

The island lies at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. To the Dakota, old in the land, it marked the Center of the World.

That's where we gather for Samhain.

In the river valley, the Sun sets early. By late afternoon, people have already begun to gather at the stone-built fire-hall, and kindled a fire in its central hearth. At sunset we close the doors.

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Mouldy grapes and the work after the harvest

Harvesting also means preserving. The traditional men’s work for the season – bringing it in – may be done, but the traditional women’s work of getting it to keep, is just starting. Drying, pickling, fermenting, jamming, canning, and storing are older methods, freezing and refrigerating more modern, but if you want your harvest to feed you until spring, you have to look after it.

I’m wine making this year, the ongoing work in the midst of which I have paused to blog. My mother’s grape harvest, of tiny, tart green grapes, must be plucked from stems, and the dodgy ones removed. It’s slow, fiddly, and throwing the right bits out is an important part of the proceedings.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Wassailing the Trees

One of the things that strikes me about pagan holidays is the way that they're all implicated in one another. Yule doesn't just sit enshrined in its own golden halo at the end of the year, touching nothing else. As both the end and the beginning of the solar year—and indeed, the whole of the coming year in microcosm—it reaches back to the previous growing season and harvest, and forward to the coming ones. They say that the Yule you keep affects the year ahead. That's why it's so important to eat rich and ample food during all Thirteen Days. The Devil promised a would-be witch in hunger-stricken 17th century Lowland Scotland, “Thou shalt eat every day as [well as] if it were Yule.”

A few years back a neighbor popped in for some reason or other during the Yuledays. “Beautiful tree,” she remarked. “Not the least bit Christmas-y.”

Well, no. It's covered with blown-glass fruits and vegetables. Every ornament's a prayer.

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