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On Betrayal: A darker side of taste

The food blogosphere is a unique space, one which I hugely enjoy.  I currently have 38 food blogs bookmarked, and I check in on all of them every week or two.  They are a fantastic source of inspiration and information.  I am frequently bowled over by people’s creativity, their expressive writing, achingly beautiful photos, and the sheer energy they put into crafting the identity and look of their blog.

Despite this, at times I get a bit bored with all the perfect food captured in perfect photos, and the perfectly quirky stories of lives so much more exciting than my own.  We’re all supposed to have such creative and educated palates these days that no-one would dream of posting a recipe that is less than perfect. No one says, this soup is ok; it’s not what I was hoping to achieve, but you know, it’s perfectly edible if there’s nothing else in the house and you only have yourself to feed, and here’s a crappy photo that I took on my crappy camera and can’t be bothered to photoshop because I’d rather wash my hair.  Obviously you wouldn’t bother to have a food blog that you didn’t put effort into, but all this perfection can be tiring.  I love the food blogosphere, but sometimes it appears as one endless stream of Proustian moments; one great porridge of recycled, blissful salivation.  We all know that food can often be disappointing; occasionally downright disgusting.  Why don’t we blog about this dark-side of food?

In this vein, I offer here a story about the taste of apples.  Despite the appearance of cake, the story centres on failure, and a lingering disappointment in your mouth.

On Betrayal: A Darker Side of Taste

Scene 1
[Curtains open, revealing a bustling farmers market.  A large stand at centre stage displays a wide variety of apples.  The dusky skins, withered stems and rustic leaves still attached are a world away from waxy, plastic-stickered supermarket apples.  A spotlight illuminates a crate of yellow apples, and a sign reads “The Champagne of Apples”. A couple enters from stage left; orchestra plays soft, lilting music]

Boy: “Our bus will be here soon, let’s hurry, I want to get to the gym this morning”
Girl: “Yeah these bags are getting heavy, oh wait, I’ll just have a quick look at the apples.  You go, I’ll catch up”
She quickly scans the offerings, then stands stock still as she spies the yellow apples.  Another marketer almost walks into her and grumbles, walking around her.  She is oblivious, and walks over and picks up an apple, examining the lemony-yellow skin freckled with delicate red spots.
Stall Owner: Who looks suspiciously like Heston Blumenthal, “Good morning!”
Girl: “Hi!  I’ve never seen these apples before, they’re beautiful”
Stall Owner: “They’re Granny Smith apples”
Girl: “But they look nothing like Granny Smith’s”
Stall Owner: “That’s because they’ve been left on the tree through the winter and have been through a few frosts. They’re actually my favourite apple.  Would you like to try a slice?”
Girl: “Yes please”
Takes slice and bites into it as [Stall Owner] moves away to another customer.  As she chews we see her eyes widen and her breathing become shallow as she gazes with wonder at the apple.  [Lights fade, except for a spotlight on the girl.  The music becomes expansive and energised]
Girl: Singing:

“It’s soooooo juicy, oh so juicy!
So tender, so tender, yet crunchy!
The flavour is so complex and lively,
It is singing, singing on my tounge!
Oh apple, I have never known an apple like you before, not like you before,
I had no idea, that it could be like this,
That apples, could have such depth of character.
I feel like I have discovered a forgotten and ancient apple tree,
At the very back of an over-grown orchard.
Oh apple, apple you are timeless,
You are [dramatic pause…] as apples should be.”

She starts filling a bag, sorting through the pile to find the most delicately spotted specimens.  Suddenly, her face lights up even more.  [A faint halo of light appears behind her head, and the music rises in a dramatic crescendo]
Girl: “I’m going to blog about these apples!  Yes!  What an inspired post this is going to be!  I have such clarity, such vision!  I can already envision the photographs I am going to take, with the light just so.  I am already forming the words in my head!  This post will achieve an exquisite distallation of experience that has never been blogged before!  I will capture this apple, communicate its essence, and inspire thousands!”
Pauses to look at the apples in her bag, and then back at the pile.
Girl: “How much money have I got left?  Can I afford to buy one more without having to run after [Boy] like a little woman?  Oh, I’ll just risk it”
Lights rise again to reveal [Stall Owner] looking at [Girl] quizzically as she fumbles with her purse, pops the last piece of apple in her mouth, chews ecstatically, then sighs.
Girl: “I’ll take these thanks”  They exchange money and she walks on to [Boy] waiting impatiently ahead.
Girl: “You won’t believe these apples, they are incredible…”
Boy: Cuts in, “Hurry up, I can see the bus coming…”
[Lights fade and curtains close]

Scene 2
[Curtains open to reveal a small inner city apartment.  [Girl] is unpacking bags of fruit and vegetables]

Girl:Talking to herself, “I’m so glad we went to the market today, I feel so satisfied and wholesome, and those apples, oh!  Those apples!  How can I ever shop for apples at the supermarket ever again?  Life is good.  The sun is shining, I’m in love with [Boy] and now, I have these apples.  They’re basically the cherry crowning the chocolate sauce on the most amazing icecream sundae that is my life.  Where’s my camera?”
Pulls out her camera, and proceeds to arrange the apples on the table and snap away, trying different angles and composition, occasionally stopping to pick up an apple, gaze at the red freckles, and sniff the skin.
Girl: “I can’t wait any longer, I must eat one.”
Picking up an apple, she bites into it, closes her eyes, and chews expectantly.  With a puzzled expression, she looks at the apple, then takes another bite.  [Lights darken, and the music is wistful]
Girl: “What’s going on, why isn’t it as good?  It’s tasty, but just not the same”
Eats another apple, growing steadily more disconcerted.  [Lights take on an ominous green tinge, and the music grows mournful]
Girl: “I can’t get it back, that clarity, that purity of flavour.  Where is it?  I’m confused.  It’s the same apple, but not the same.  Maybe I’ll try one more” 
Eats another apple, then in a frenzy, devours three more, juice squirting and pips flying about the room.  She sits with her head in her hands, shaking, then takes a deep breath. 
Girl: “I just don’t get it.  Not one of these apples has returned me to the dizzying heights of that stall-side moment.  Why?  Did I over-think it?  Was it a mistake to name that apple as the penultimate apple experience?  In doing so, did I render that delicious taste Ideal, and from henceforth, unreachable?  God knows I’ve tried.  But I have utterly failed to retrieve the specific taste memory that had seemed so clear.  Now I can’t even seem to identify the precise nuances in the apple.  I find myself arriving only at a series of hopeful references to guava and grape, and even worse, questionable profundities such as “the essence of spring to come”!  This is hopeless.  I am totally discombobulated.” 
Rising from the table, she walks to the window.  [The music is dark and dramatic]
Girl: “That single slice of apple did something to me.  It transported me, dammit, to a higher plane; possessed me completely, then kicked the skin and bones that were left back to earth.  I’m left with only the faintest shadow of memory, slipping through my fingers like dry sand, leaving me to doubt the very existence of the experience.  How can I blog in the face of this kind of betrayal?”
She looks thoroughly dejected.  It starts to rain and a rumble of thunder can be heard in the distance.
[Curtains close]

Scene 3
[Curtains open.  [Girl] is in a kitchen, surrounded by flour, sugar and eggs.  A laptop perched on the breakfast bar displays a recipe]

Girl: Cackling quietly, “Apples, apples, apples.  You sweet and deceptively innocent apples.  Mess with me, I’m going to cook you down!  I’m going to destroy your freshness and turn you into cake.  And I have just the cake for you, an Apple Custard Cake that’s been on my mind for months, just waiting for you, sweet little apples.  I don’t even have a vanilla pod, like the recipe demands, but I’m going to make an inspired substitution with 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/8 tsp ground cardamom.  Oh apples, I’m going to regain control over you!”
Laughing, she peels and chops the apples, stirs them into the batter, then pops the tin in the oven.  [Lights fade, then rise again] as she removes the cake from the oven.
Girl: “Oh this smells great. It’s so golden, and the edges are lovely and crunchy”
Boy: “Is that cake I smell?”
Girl: “Yes, come and have some, here, I’ll just cut it”
They enthusiastically tuck into the cake.
Girl: “Oh it’s lovely!  The apples are so tender!  And gosh that blogger is so right about sprinkling a touch of sea salt over the top to serve it.  It enhances the flavour perfectly”
Boy: “I agree, I was suspicious at first, but it’s great!  This cake is so worth the 600 crunches I am going to have to do tomorrow.  I must also say, my darling, that your addition of cinnamon and cardamom was a brilliant move, you are truely talented”
Girl: “Thank you, I feel totally vindicated – take that “Champagne of Apples”!
[Boy] leans forward to kiss her as [lights fade; Spotlight Stage Right] as the Stall Owner walks on stage.  It is now clear that he is indeed Heston Blumenthal.
Stall Owner/Heston: Intones with authority, “What could be more simple than a girl and some apples?  Our heroine is perhaps a bit over-sensitive, you might say, a touch potty in the head.  Not so, I argue.  While she certainly has yet to hit on the true meaning of this tale, she is close, so close.  Give her time; eventually she’ll realise that the failure was not of the apples, and that the failure was certainly not of her.  The failure, quite simply, had nothing to do with the placing of apple in mouth; it was a failure of context.  A slice of apple, proffered by a handsome and charming Stall Owner, in a bustling market on a fresh winter’s day, well, it could never be simply a slice of apple.  It was the context of this experience that made the taste so memorable, my friends, ‘the context of this experience’ [says meaningfully].  This is the moral of this story: taste is never simply a chemical and textural mouth experience.  No, it is also filtered through other energies, like atmosphere, setting, other symbols, other information.  If you pay attention, my friends, you too will find that no apple is ever the same twice.”
[Lights fade; curtains fall; music rises, Hot Chocolate: “It Started With A Kiss”]

{Thanks guys, for still inspiring me}


  1. Loredana Isabella Crupi

    Engrossing ! love the role reversal of the symbolism expressed above…Man proffers apple to woman…:-)

  2. I am looking forward to it . I grabbed some pink lady’s today (sounds dodgy) at the growers market and used them in a rhubarb apple crumble. They took longer to cook down than normal and I did have a laugh when I thought of your post. (I should apologise for the bad pun on ‘core’ but I won’t, I can’t help it, it’s hereditary.)

  3. Loved this. The apple, at the core of so many tales of deception and betrayal. To avoid disappointment, I will never accept an apple from a handsome stranger….hang about….that sounds familiar.

    • Thank you so much! Until your comment I had never thought about the broader symbolism of the apple in Western culture. How insightful of you…I feel Part II coming on!

  4. Pingback: 2012: In review | Chez Moi

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