Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fruit tree season

Apples and pears are in the stores year-round here, but they're really only what I'd consider edible in the autumn. It makes sense, since that's their natural time to ripen. Apple cider, apple pie, and pear muffins are nearly as ubiquitously autumn-y as pumpkins and root vegetables. Combine them with the cool weather and they're perfect for baking! Warm up your house, your body, your soul....

I have a confession to make: I'm am absurdly, ridiculously, insanely jealous of everyone who lives in a climate that will support fruit trees. It's my one complaint about living in Alaska. I love it here, but at this time of year the fruit trees beckon. There is at least one heritage variety that will survive down to -40. I know this because Shane's mom has one. It's never produced more than a few apples each year, but I think it's still fairly young so I'm hopeful that one day it will start producing. And I think I read that Calypso Farms have an apple tree or two, but I've never seen apples at the farmer's market so I don't think they do very well here, if you can get them to grow in the first place.
Oh, I know we can get apples from Washington in the grocery store. After all, it seems to be the apple capital of the US, and it's still regional if not local. But it's just not the same! I want the pleasure of going into my own yard and picking apples, pears, or plums to cook and bake with. Mmm, the things I could do with my own fruit trees! *Heavy sigh*
Not that I've had any time for baking this week, anyway. With "Annie" rehearsals going on every night, it's been a fun and exhausting week. It's striking to me how relevant the themes of the show still are. Tough economic times, people who have everything connected to politicians, and then people with absolutely nothing. People living on the streets because they can't make a living. "7 million people in this city and I can't sell one lousy apple!" And just when you think you can't feel sorrier for them, their shanty town gets raided and destroyed by the police. It's been how long since the Great Depression, and we still don't have a better method of dealing with our homeless but to run them off into other areas and decide that their problems are not ours, that in fact they are the problem. It happens every year all over the country. One of the saddest stories I've heard was about a church in the Seattle area last year who had agreed to let the homeless camp in their parking lot (the tent city had been moved many times before) but the neighborhood rebelled and it was decided that the church couldn't do that because of safety concerns. Of course, they only meant the concerns of the wealthy homeowners, not the safety of the homeless. And the poor church community had their hands tried while trying to do some good.
In the play, I even find the character of Miss Hannigan sympathetic. The poor woman is stuck in a job she hates and isn't suited for because she gets a steady paycheck, housing, and a pension. How many people are currently stuck in that situation? (And yes, I do know that our current economic situation isn't even close to the Great Depression. But there are a lot of similarities which can be pointed to, and none of them are good. Even the fact that we can make comparisons to the Great Depression is a sign of how bad things are.) I do not attempt to excuse or condone Miss Hannigan's abuse of the children, but I think her character is so much more than simply a villain. The way she comes on to Bundles and the police officer, it's obvious that she's lonely. And really, besides her brother, those are the only two men she really meets. She lives where she works, and it's got to be pretty isolating. I end up feeling sorry for her.
The Daily News-Miner ran an article the other day about the local food bank. They've added some interactive online giving methods in the hopes of attracting young people to donate. I hope it works. Just like everywhere, donations are down while need is up. And as always, I encourage everyone (all two of my readers) to donate to their local food banks whenever possible. Even five dollars here and there can make a huge difference. If you don't have any money to give, there's always the website freerice. Every correct answer to a question donates 10 grains of rice. It's fun not only to see what level you can get to, but how many grains of rice you can donate.

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