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Apple pie forever

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“What in the Sam Hill is wrong with you?”

Dad’s shadow swallowed the entire sunlight of what to that moment had been a summer of prepubescent abandon. Three years earlier, my younger sister and I had helped him break ground for the newest addition to the botanical gardens that was now our front yard. “Crab apples,” he told us. “They’ll make an excellent jelly.” I’m sure. But what they also made – with their molecular density and flawless aerodynamics – was the perfect weapon’s system for a 30-years war I had been waging with the three Italian kids down the street since grade two. Unfortunately for an 11 year old, missile guidance is hardly a perfect science. Collateral damage can be an issue. That day it was the side-view mirror on our neighbour’s 1968 Dodge Cornet.

“You could kill somebody with one of those things. They’re as hard as granite you know. Remember Goliath?”

If there are two things for which my father should be considered a Jedi Master, it would be his ability to portend doom in the most catastrophic language – and to then link that doom with a three thousand year old lesson from the Holy Scriptures. Late for school in the morning? “Remember the wife of Lot.” Skip out on mowing the lawn? “Remember Jonah and the big fish! You want to end up in the belly of a whale for three days? It’s your life, mister.” Such is the birthright of a preacher’s son.

Which brings me to the endless list of questions that people ask out loud about criminal behaviour. Of the top seven thousand, surely the most pointless one is, “Why you?” In my family, there were two other siblings. All three of us germinated in the balmy shade of the same uneventful 1970’s middle-class experience. Two parents, four grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and l.5 dogs (don’t ask) – we had ‘em all. At the same time, alcoholism, buggery, and divorce were words we didn’t even know how to spell. Dad was a Christian minister. Mom was of the same religious persuasion, plus she could can peaches, help me with long division and cut out quilting squares simultaneously, all while keeping an unblinking eye on my inquisitive two-year-old sister. Life at our house was like a big white version of the Cosby Show. So how did one kid become a career criminal while my sister became a Bible tutor? You figure that one out and you can stop buying lottery tickets.

If there’s one thing that the trillion dollar child-rearing industry desperately wants you to forget, it’s that a homo sapiens is a homo sapiens is a homo sapiens. Sort of like an apple. In 2010, a team led by Riccardo Valesco sequenced the entirety of the apple genome. It was huge – even larger than that of humans. And unlike other major food crops, apples are not a hybrid. That means that of the more than 7,500 varieties of apples now on earth, every one can be traced directly back to Malus sieversii – the first wild apples that grew on the northern slopes of China’s Tien Shan mountain range, thousands of years before Christ. Red delicious, Granny Smiths, Cox’s Orange, Gravensteins – even those Crabs from the front yard; they’re all the exact same apple. So why does one taste like comb honey and the other like a gopher’s gallbladder?

“Just lucky, I guess.” That’s what my friend J.P. tells people when they ask him why, in a family stocked with academic overachievers and business professionals, he’s the only one with a criminal record. That his record is 26 years long only makes that question more perplexing.

“When I was a kid,” he continues, “I questioned everything. Why do flies fly? And if God made everything, then who made God? It still drives my mom nuts sometimes.”

“The thing is, no one ever really answered my questions. They would give me some stupid answer like ‘because that’s the way it is.’ So I started thinking that people weren’t very bright, and I would just do whatever I wanted. Free will, right? I don’t think my family has ever figured that out.”

The average North American consumes about 45 pounds of apples per year – 60% of that straight from the fruit bowl. Most of us don’t stop to think about how they got there. We just sink in our teeth and judge. Too sour? Too dry? Or just right – like us? We don’t think about how that one apple took the energy of 50 leaves to produce. Or that the seed that created it survived the trip through the guts of a bear, horse, or bird before being stuffed into the soil by a bug that eats crap. Only a kid who questions everything would know that. But whether humans or apples, there’s one thing about it. Even the worst tasting can be used for something. Just keep adding sugar.

 

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