Wednesday I went with my friend Nancy on an apple orchard outing. We visited four of them! I’ve been on an applesauce kick, so I stocked up: half a peck each of Haralsons and SnowSweets, a full peck of a mix of Haralsons, Honeycrisp, and SweeTango; and two Honeygolds (that taste very much like pears, which I thought would make a very interesting applesauce).
Applesauce is easy peasy to make. Take your apples, core them, cut in chunks (I usually do quarters, then halve the quarters, and then cut crosswise). I leave the skins on because I like the added crunch (and the good stuff in the skin), but I make the pieces smaller than most applesauce recipes because that seems to work better with the skins. Put in a large saucepan, add about 1/3 cup water per four large apples, bring to a boil over high heat, turn down to low, stir every five minutes or so, and add more water if the water totally disappears at the bottom or it seems to be getting too thick for your taste. When the apples are soft, it is done (usually 10-30 minutes, depending on how many apples). I use a potato masher because I prefer a lumpy applesauce, and I try to remember to add cinnamon before I put it in the jars.
After the apple orchards we stopped for a beer and more talking and catching up. When we got around to books, Nancy asked if I had any interest in reading Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked, together. Oh yes! We did this a few years ago with Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, read a chapter a week and discussed it throughly, often page by page. We are not as geographically close now and weekly is probably not practical, but we will still read the book in chunks and meet as we progress. It is a very fun—and deep—way to read a book.
Then on Thursday I got together with Sheila and among other things, we finalized our monthly book themes for next year. There are no rules around this, except that you read at least one book related to the theme each month. Usually most of my reading relates to the theme (particularly poetry—I find the this approach a great way to find some of the poetry books that have been waiting for years to be read). I tend to want the theme reflected in the title of the book, while Sheila is more interested in its reflecting the content of the book. I’m afraid this says something really shallow about me, but sometimes I can be rigid, and I like being rigid in this particular way. Here are the themes we’ve chosen for 2015:
- June—Award Winners (repeat from 2014)
- July—Roads & highways
- August—Time (repeat from 2014)
- December—Literary Characters
One of the best things about the reading theme is that I pull books off the shelf that I bought years ago. Books I bought with good intention and then never got around to; new things came in, and now they’ve been languishing, sometimes for decades (one, Sara Crewe by Frances Hodgson Burnett, for 40 years!). The monthly reading theme levels the playing field in a way; the new books no longer rule the roost.
For someone who has tended to buy more books than they read, it’s a refreshing change of pace.