The Apples of My Eye

I think it’s fair to say that when I do or say something mockable, I’m the first person to admit it. In fact, I’m often the first person to point it out. So I find it quite irksome when something I do or say is NOT mockable, yet is perceived as mockable by someone else, who does indeed mock me.

Keith and I spent the weekend in the central New Jersey willlage from which we both hail.  We’d been invited by his twin brother, Craig, to go apple picking with Craig’s wife and two little boys, ages 3 and 18 months.  Apple picking in the Garden State has long been one of my favorite activities for several reasons.

  • It’s one of the very few outdoor activities in which I can actually participate without feeling totally humiliated.
  • I love fall weekend outfits, even though I never seem to have the right one.
  • Cider and donuts
  • The parts of New Jersey in which one picks apples happen to be extremely beautiful and validate my perpetual defenses of my homeland
  • The parts of New Jersey in which one picks apples absolutely fascinate me in general.  I think this is because they lie a mere 20 minutes west of where I grew up – in a generic, middle class suburb – yet truly qualify as “country.” These apple-rific towns have funny names like Peapack and Gladstone (one town) and Pluckemin. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by “Pluckemin?” Furthermore, they’re ground zero for the morbid local lore of the Kienast Quintuplets, the second set of surviving quintuplets in the U.S. They grew up in Liberty Corner, 12 miles away, and their father committed suicide in 1984 after finding himself unable to support his giant, Perganol-made family.  (Read more in the New York Times)
  • Even furthermore, most of the creepy stories I read about in Weird New Jersey take place somewhere in Somerset or Hunterdon Counties.
  • Cider and donuts

So on Saturday morning, we piled into the mini-van, made a pit stop at Dunkin Donuts, and headed to Melick’s Town Farm in Oldwick. Keith and I approached the basket procurement stand. I was looking specifically for Macoun apples, which both Jan and Keith’s mom had requested, and which aren’t that easy to find in the city. Thankfully, a sign explained which types of apples were currently available for picking, and Macoun was among them. I was confused, however, by the fact that each apple type had an “Upper” or “Lower” label next to it. Seeking clarification, I asked the basket hander-outer whether that referred to the part of the tree or the part of the orchard.

Basket Hander-Outer – whose relatives, I guarantee you, live in the Pine Barrens – literally doubled over with laughter.

At first I didn’t even realize she was laughing at me, as I really didn’t think I’d said anything funny.

Then she managed to gasp, in between the sniggering, “Oh my lord. You are so cute. I’m gonna put that in my quote book.”

She called over a male co-worker and repeated what I’d asked, prompting him to fall into hysterics as well.

“What is so funny that you both require medical attention?” I asked, with a hint of tone.

Keith said, very kindly, “You do know that only one kind of apple can grow on a tree, right?”

Of course I know that. Sheesh.  But yet …

I attempted to explain what I thought was very intelligent reasoning.

One:  I didn’t know whether the trees were labeled – Winesap, Empire, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp … If not, it seemed totally plausible that certain types of apples grew on certain parts of the trees, and that their location would help pickers identify them.  If the elusive Macoun grew only on UPPER branches, let’s say, I’d know that a lower-hanging fruit, as a certain old boss of mine liked to say, was not a Macoun.

Two:  Nowadays, thanks to genetic engineering, “they” can morph all kinds of fruit. Is the tangelo not a tangerine crossed with a grapefruit or pomelo? Is there no such thing as a grapple? Have you met my friend the pluot? Ergo, it also seemed plausible that a tree COULD offer more than one type of apple.

Alright. I can see why you’d think this was just my idiot savant talking. But yet …

Three:  Even if it was the stupidest question in the history of questions, was it really THAT funny?

Frick on a worm-eaten, rotten-cored stick. Why are you all laughing at me?! I smaht! I really smaht!

I had no choice but to retaliate with the first potentially mockable detail I could conjure. I announced to my fellow apple pickers and Basket Hander-Outer that earlier in the week, when I’d blown a fuse drying my hair, Keith had had  no clue what or where the fuse box was.  I went to Home Depot to replace the antique fuses and I reinstalled them myself.

Take that, you evil mockers.

The evil  mockers still found my question funnier.

“Just give me a basket,” I said before storming off to the UPPER orchard where ALL the good apple types were located.


In the end, it all worked out. We collected an array of flawless Jersey apples, apple butter, corn relish and donuts. We partook of the noonish meal at a fabulous deli called The General Store and finished the afternoon with a trip to Tarzhay which always makes everything better.

Addendum: My dear friend Loren, who is very smart and holds degrees from the University of Michigan, the University of California at Berkeley and Columbia University, reports that she was apple picking in the Berkshires this weekend and learned …. THERE CAN IN FACT BE MORE THAN ONE APPLE TYPE PER TREE, THANKS TO GRAFTING.

The Apples of My Eye