As Apple season winds to a close in Northern California, the bins at my favorite apple vendor go from a multitude of colors, flavors and textures to all Pink Ladies and Fuji’s. This is not to say that these are not perfectly lovely apples in their own right, but it leaves me longing for the very first apple of the season, and by orders of magnitude, my favorite.
The Empire; so crisp it pops, the perfect balance of tart and sweet and exactly the color every middle-aged man wants his 1969 Camaro painted.
The season for Empires here is fast and furious; they arrive sometime in September, as soon as we see them, we buy at least ten pounds a week and eat them day and night…two weeks later the season is over, and I mean over, they are gone.
Flash back to 1975, growing up in Ithaca, New York, we would ride our bicycles to the Cornell Orchards, drop our bikes and wander into the rows of trees, the air heady with the smell of apples, this was the birthplace of the Empire. We would eat fallen fruit until we were ready to burst, then practice juggling, find a pipe and do some batting practice, all while the intense smells grew stronger. We would arrive home with knapsacks full of Empires, all fallen fruit that would have become worm fodder.
Alas, now, a few fleeting weeks of September are the connection to those precious days, I have made an silent vow to my sons that we will all go to Ithaca in the fall, eat Empires from the ground, and maybe even find an Indie theater showing a Star Wars saga.