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An Ode to Apples

An Ode to Apples
"An apple a day"
-Everyone
It's been 3 weeks since our feature on the TODAY Show aired. If you missed it- here is the link. It feels like so much longer, and in some ways we're still processing the attention it drummed up. We were flooded with well wishes, stories, and orders from across the country. Centenarians living in California who grew up on orchards on Orcas - young women hoping to turn their own lives upside down and follow their bliss - jam makers from all around sharing their favorite varietals and recipes - community members who were hearing about us for the first time - well wishers buying our jam just to say good luck. It's left us grateful indeed- but more than anything, humbled. Humbled by the threads that connect so many of us, and floored by how a simple story can illuminate them.

On Orcas the leaves have mostly fallen- some still clinging waiting for the next windstorm. The vast majority of apples have been picked or are being nibbled by deer lucky enough to catch the windfall. The days are brief now and there is ample time for warm mugs of cider, evening shrub hot toddies, and dark mornings with toast, thick butter, and apple jam. They'll be pies soon if they aren't abundant already. And I'm transported.  
I didn't grow up on a farm. We had a backyard garden and I vividly remember snipping chives for baked potatoes and snapping off fresh green beans for quick snacks. I only learned to preserve after moving to Orcas, in admiration of the folk who had been doing it here already for so long. But I've been baking apples pies since I can remember, or watching my mom, crumble the butter and massage it with flour into pea sized bits, quickly splash with ice cold water and adeptly form into a crumbly heap, to sit and rest while the apples were prepped. "Don't overwork the dough" - repeated ad infinitum.  
Apple pie is where it started for me. It provided my very first sense of place - or rather, a sense that a place could have a taste. Washington State is known for its apples - producing the vast majority of the world's demand. But to me, apples preempt gathering- they mark a coming together. So many dinners and gatherings and moments have been accented, or made, with heavy slices with apple filled flakey pastry weighed down with dripping vanilla ice cream-- the sweet and tart playing perfectly off the salty, buttery base.  
Apple pie followed me out to New York, another state that takes its apples very seriously. My first NYC Thanksgiving I pumped out 4 pies in my tiny Manhattan apartment. Apple pie to me, was home. And now, here I am, really, and finally, home, thinking of the varieties I'll take with me down to my mother's house in a few weeks, where I'll be making the pies - while my two kids look on eager for a fingerful- and grandma plays assistant.  
I have always hoped our preserves could in some tiny way transport the person eating them - to Orcas perhaps, or to some place in their memories where things were sweet. That the clink from a toast of a shrub soda or a sip from a warm spiked mug, would invite pause...and appreciation. We don't all have time to make preserves or bake pies, but taking a moment, or a few moments, to sip and taste and enjoy - that's what fueled me through many years in an accidental career - and that's what finally got me out of it. Those moments, the moments “in between”, the small but powerful moments with tastebuds fully alive, got me through loss, over and over again. I’ll never underestimate the impact of one well rounded bite.

Here's to apples, and here's to pies. May you enjoy your fill of both.

Cheers! XOXO, Audra

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