Shifty September and Ready Apples

Baby_Apple_Tree_JacquelineGnott

It sneaks in ever so quickly, the changing of the light.

The earth’s top begins to lean towards deep space searching the stars. Shadows fall in different places, and the weather turns mixed and playful. Autumn will soon arrive at the door, and there will be nothing we can do about it but invite it in and have something to eat.

However, we are still in mid-shift. There is time to take in temperate breezes and walk about in minimal layers and sandals. It's where we are now, and we mean to enjoy it. We throw ourselves outdoors because September is shifty—a changeling we know well. Even its name is not what it seems. “September” means “seventh month,” even though it is our ninth, and it leads us onward to the other confusing names of “October” (8th), “November” (9th) and “December” (10th), which are actually our tenth, eleventh, and twelfth months.It must have been very logical to the Romans to create a ten-month calendar, counting the days by the crescent moons appearing on the horizon. I’m sure it made perfect sense to ignore the first 60 or so wintry days of the year—which were too dismal for including. And who would be against the Caesars taking a few months for themselves and renaming them like we do our city streets: Julius gets his July. Augustus gets his August.

Ironically, though, as Earth spun in time unchanging, we played god and added more squares to our calendar.

Ironically, though, as Earth spun in time unchanging, we played god and added more squares to our calendar. We legitimized the dismal days, calling them January and February. We tinkered to the rhythm of superstition and declared odd days “auspicious” and even days “unworthy.” But then time stopped. Historians tell us that at one point the calendar makers suddenly closed shop. Everything was counted and framed for luck, and what wasn’t counted, could be made up here and there as we saw fit. So we pressed on with the haphazard, arbitrarily arranged calendar months. The motley collection became well-worn shoes, and their names were translated and pressed into many languages.

Marking the calendar gives us the impression that we have control over changing time. Mother Nature likes to joke about this while catching up with friends, which are usually a few stars and a moon or two. “They are STILL doing it. Can you believe it? They still think they are the boss.”

When I was a young college student, I would call up my friend Susan every September and say, “The seasons are changing! The seasons are changing!” It would still be woefully hot outside—Texas hot—but the light did not lie and it gave us something to look forward to. When the first rain fell a month later, we’d wander about the city kicking up puddles and enjoying the freedom of youth.

There is a sense of hope in fall rain, particularly in places like Texas where the summers begin early and continue until Christmas. We glare at the calendar and long for control over the weather, over our lives. Yet, the only relief from this monotonous merry-go-round is to accept where we are in our current season. And beautifully, in the midst of feeling stagnation, we recognize that seasons are seasonal. Change is inevitable, and things do truly move on.

Now living in a climate where fall arrives on time and rainfall is no longer a rare occurrence, I still welcome the signals of change. The light shifts. Trees grow heavy with leaves; their colors so rich they start to burst into gold. The first apples and pears reach market stalls. Tart or sweet, crisp or soft, they sit round, bright and ready to jump into my bag.

The first apples and pears reach market stalls. Tart or sweet, crisp or soft, they sit round, bright and ready to jump into my bag.

There are a number of wishes and goals I have logged here and there amongst personal journals. Each morning when I sit at my desk and empty my thoughts onto the page, I can’t help but feel like the arrival of the things I hope for has been delayed in perpetuity. I check things off my to do list. I look over my calendar. The tics and checkmarks tell me things are happening—albeit slowly.  I then look in the mirror while dressing and see Nature’s tics and checkmarks and find it grossly unfair that her goals are moving much faster than mine.

However, I have apples in the kitchen that I picked up at the market. And soon there will be apple pies, apple jams, apple cider. City folk will rush to the country to pick apples from the trees themselves. It is true that hope deferred can make the heart sick, but an apple a day in the fall…

The calendar pages turn their arbitrary squares over on themselves in a revolving stasis, but I know what’s real. Stuck is a frame of mind. It’s September. Shifty September. Change is at hand. And if I don’t want to believe September, well, that’s okay. The trees are truthful, and they tell me, “The seasons are changing.”

Elise McMullen-Ciotti a.k.a.The Galavant Girl

Painting by Jacqueline Gnott

Applecakes
Applecakes The Galavant Girl

For my husband's birthday, I made him his favorite cake from childhood, ciambalone,which is similar to a pound cake, but less sweet and baked in a shallow bunt pan. Since the common ciambalone pans in Italy are larger than the makeshift ringed pan I bought here in the states, I was left with additional batter. I decided to create what I have donned "applecakes."

Ingredients:
batter:
150 grams of unsalted butter brought to room temperature
300 grams of evaporated cane sugar
4 eggs
180 ml milk
300 grams flour
16 grams baking powder
1 tsp salt
zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon vanilla
cooking spray (I only use olive or coconut
powdered sugar for topping

apple base:
crisp apples
1/2 cup of unsalted butter brought to room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
pinch of salt

Tools:
1 large mixing bowl
1 medium mixing bowl
small bowls for containing ingredients
strong wooden spoon
whisk
scale (with bowl for weighing)
zester or microplane
measuring spoons
measuring cups
liquid measuring cup (including metric)
muffin/cupcake pan
chef knife

Method:
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius or 350 degrees fahrenheit. Cream butter for apple base with cinnamon, sugar, and salt with wooden spoon and set aside. Chop apples (I cut them into slices and then slice the slices.) and set aside. Zest lemon and set aside. Juice lemon and pour juice over apples.

Cream butter and sugar into large mixing bowl with wooden spoon. Add eggs and incorporate. Add milk and vanilla and incorporate. In the medium size mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients. With a whisk, begin adding dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix for one minute. When mixed, add lemon zest.

Spray muffin/cupcake pan with cooking spray. Place 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon/sugar/butter mixture into the bottom of each "cup" in pan. add a few apple pieces. (I try to cover the bottom.) Pour batter into pan until each cup is 3/4 full.

Bake for 18 minutes, and turn out immediately onto cooling racks. Once all applecakes are baked, serve them on a plate with powdered sugar sprinkled on top.

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