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Opinion: Bill Walton, Salted apples

The only thing worse than finding a worm in your apple is finding half a worm.

I was shopping the other day at my local Loblaws store in anticipation of finding some of those items on which they had rolled the price back. I was perusing the fruit and veggie section, the larder at home needing some green stuff for my salad and maybe a few apples or grapes for my usual noon-hour repas. I can stretch a head of iceberg lettuce for a week of sandwiches and one salad but one has to be careful of the freshness of the cellophane-wrapped delicacy.

You know things are tight when I say iceberg lettuce is considered a delicacy on my budget. Anyway, the seedless grapes were a bargain at below $3. Unfortunately, that fruit shoots my glucose through the roof. Still, just a few are okay, I told myself. I am not one of those people who sample a grape before buying the bunch, relying on a visual inspection. These white grapes were smaller than my favourite Chilean table grape, but I was hoodwinked by the price.

Blah.  I may sneak a sampler the next time.

I was excited to see a rollback in the price of red grapefruit. I have been buying 2 of the delicious citrus fruits at 2/5.00, not that I needed two (storage in the fridge is limited), but I had read recently that citrus does something miraculous for your digestion and in my case, for the melatonin which aids in sleeping. But the satisfaction I felt that morning was the dropping of that “two for” price which penalizes seniors carrying the groceries up stairs and for people with limited storage. The Florida grapefruit were now 2.49 each. I know, I know, that’s only a 2-cent saving but if you were buying one it was a saving of 26 cents! I bought 2.

Apples were on my list, as usual, and the store had a large selection of apples: everything from McIntosh, to Ambrosia, Gala, Delicious, Fuji, Honey Crisp and Granny Smith. The prices went from 2.49 to 3.99 a pound. I stood there, stalled.

You have to forgive us old-timers when we get stalled shopping. It is not so much that we are confused over the prices they want for goods nowadays or the wide selection of choices over things as common as crackers or the many types of pasta. We are just in memory mode. When I was a boy – and this is going back to just after WWII – Grandpa Walton lived with us, and he enjoyed his apples.

I guess genetics do work.  In the afternoon, in the fall when the apples were in top condition (most came from Ontario, not from around the world as now), Grandpa would take his afternoon break and eat an apple.

This was quite a production for me to watch. The first order of business was for me to fetch the salt shaker. Grandpa would then take his pocket knife (all adult males carried a pocket knife) and cut the apple into quarters. This was standard procedure for apple-eaters: not only did you carefully remove the core, but this gave you an opportunity to check the apples for worms. The only thing worse than finding a worm in your apple is finding half a worm. This was long before fruit farmers used pesticides like carbaryl to kill the coddling moths and we ate the skins – but not the apple worm. If the worm had not messed up the apple too much, one just cut that part away and it went with the core to the chickens.

The core removed, Grandpa would sprinkle just the smallest amount of salt on his apple and eat it. Looking back, people in those days ate more salt, partly because of the iodine, not knowing it was ‘bad’ for your blood pressure because you retained more water. Anyway, most men worked and sweated in those days and the salt was a good thing. The salt added to the flavour of the apple. I usually got half of a quarter of the apple, passed to me on the tip of the jackknife.

Back then, in our part of the world, one could get McIntosh apples at the start of the season. They were crisp, juicy, and quite sweet. They were excellent, towards the end of their season, for making applesauce preserves.

Next in season came the Spy apple which today might be close to a Granny Smith. They were a top choice for apple pies, but not nearly as sweet as the Mac – needing more salt – according to Grandpa. Finally, as the apple-eating season ended, we would get the BC Delicious apples – absolutely perfect for eating. They actually did come from British Columbia by train in those days.

The Granny Smiths were the cheapest that day so I selected four nice ones and put them in my cart. I am not cheap, just frugal. I knew that they would taste absolutely wonderful with a little shake of salt that afternoon at about 3 o’clock.

I could still picture Grandpa sitting outside in the lawn chair as we shared an apple. I would say, “An apple a day, keeps the Doctor away, eh, Grandpa?” And he, an old trout fisherman, would reply, “That’s right, Bill – and a fish a day keeps the worms away!”

I told that to my young doctor but she didn’t even smile. Maybe her grandfather never ate a salted apple. Just saying.

Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

Retired from City of North Bay in 2000. Writer, poet, columnist
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