When my husband had a bit of, uh, bonus awesome free time on his hands this summer, he got into the curious habit of running while not being chased*, which led to him taking part in his first 5K a few weeks ago. To celebrate, we had people over for a little New York brunch (that is, bagels and lox, no, not homemade, not when they’re this good) back at our apartment, and, still trying to dig out from under our overzealous apple-picking, I made apple cinnamon buns. I didn’t think they were a big deal; I mean, they were good, just your standard cinnamon bun with two apples, diced small, scattered over the filling but it turns out, you cannot causally mention homemade apple cinnamon buns on the internet without causing a RECIPE PLEASE ruckus. I should know this.
In one of my favorite October traditions, we picked too many apples a few weekends ago. As in maybe perhaps 25 pounds more than we needed? It’s hard to gauge. I realize that if you’ve never been in an apple orchard in October, when you’ve escaped the city to find yourselves in a quiet grove as the leaves are just starting to turn and the sky is unimaginably blue and you’re wearing your first thick sweater of the season, it’s hard to imagine how one accidentally picks 25 pounds too many apples. But I bet if you’ve been there and felt that, how fun it is to pluck crisp, unblemished, unwaxed apples from trees and let the branches snap back and the leaves flutter droplets of last night’s rain over your face, you’ve probably gotten carried away too. I think picking too many apples in October is about as important of a tradition as burning food on a backyard grill over July 4th weekend and going through a whole jar of cinnamon every fall. It’s going to happen either way; it’s best to embrace it.
For the last month or so, my cookbook had been on a boat, an image which delighted me to no end. I pictured it heading to a dock at the edge of a continent, like Arya at the end of Book 3 of Game of Thrones, and hoping that someone would give it passage. I imagined it splashing through waters rough and calm on a long journey, like the one depicted in Lost and Found. And then I imagined it arriving at the shipping docks, unloaded by the likes of handsome Nick Sobotka in Season 2 of The Wire (er, hopefully under happier circumstances), its container being fitted to trucks or rail cars and heading to a warehouse where it would tap its feet impatiently until October 30th arrived and it could finally come out and see you.
Something kind of terrifying is going on around here, and it started in the back of the closet. I found shoes there, old shoes, shoes that did not fit. They had to go. Thus far, this is the snoring-est horror story yet, but wait, the discontent simmers: Half the closet followed, all of the plastic hangers that drove me batty were replaced with nonslip ones, sweaters were color-sorted, dresses were arranged by season and my husband’s closet is on notice too.
I admitted somewhere in the comments last week that I’d all but abandoned making my own pumpkin puree these days, baking instead with the always-reliable canned stuff. I think that as home cooks, it’s our tendency to want to do anything and everything that can be from scratch as such, but that I’d never been satisfied with the labor versus outcome balance of roasting pumpkin. To get a dreamy texture like one from canned pumpkin, I found I often had to roast, then puree, then sometimes cook briefly on the stove to thicken it up and often, still found the flavor inconsistent, sometimes delicious, often a little lackluster. I know, I just put you all to sleep. I promise, there is unapologetic goofiness ahead.
And then, just like that, I decided not to work anymore. It’s weird, I finished my manuscript and I was raring to go — reshoots! edits! let’s talk design! — for about two days and then, almost out of curiosity, I closed the elaborate spreadsheet that
owns me tracks all the recipes, photos, intros and progress in the manuscript, just to see if it could close, after being open for more than a year, and it did. And then, I didn’t reopen it. I pulled on my boots and wandered all over the city, eating roasted chestnuts from a street cart, buying glitter nail polish, delighting in the carpet of golden leaves underfoot and being fantastically schedule-free. So far today, I drank a latte — sitting down I might add, and not while rushing to the grocery store because I ran out of flour again — and I’m thinking about making some applesauce. Or trying again to convince my husband that we should paint the living room. Or maybe I’ll take a nap when the kid does? Clearly, I have some tough decision making ahead.
Sunday night, I emailed off 497 pages containing 80,392 words to my editor (846 photos had been sent over before the weekend), went to bed at 2 a.m., woke up at 6 a.m. and a few hours later came home to a completely empty apartment and two entire hours to myself — two hours to nap or just stare slack-jawed at the ceiling fan and think about nothing for a while — and decided instead that I’d had enough of this pumpkin-free November I’d been having and went back into the kitchen to make pudding. That’s normal right? That’s what normal people do, right? Wait, don’t tell me.