In “The Odyssey,” apples were one of the many prides of Ithica. In Kafka’s, “The Metamorphosis,” shiny red apples were just the thing Gregor’s dad threw at his slimy, shattered roach body to get him back into his room. In Cezanne’s paintings, apples are warm, unassuming and shy beauties.
Quite hungry one late afternoon, my friends and I set out from Wurster Hall scavenging for apples: their essences brewd, baked, sliced, roasted, honeyed, toasted to a crisp; their forms plain, rotund and wholesome; green, red, mellowing-ripe yellow crates of them for sale alongside the southern side of campus.
We first came across straw baskets of Fuji apples grown by Washington® USA at Ramona’s Cafe in Wurster Hall. At Caffe Strada, we spotted apple syrup in a silver-nozzled bottle among an array of others that spanned the wall. And in the cooled, arching countertop display were clouds, pies,and crisps: desserts with apple filling.
At the Berkeley Art Museum, within the sculpture garden, Babettè cafe served homemade apple soda and their legendary apple gallette. The dough was golden and the ring of brown sugar along its toasted crust, and the apple slices tucked together in the middle were as soft as apple sauce. Topped with fresh raspberries, it was a pastry of mastery.
We passed through the Asian Ghetto finding apples only at King Pin Donuts, where they used apple jelly for filling. The pastries looked delicious but we wanted something more substantial, so we continued down Durant.
On Telegraph Avenue, shit got complex. Noah’s Bagels sold both Minute Maid Apple Juice — its lists of ingredients more dense than the US Constitution — and Simply Apple, which has far less in it. Sam’s Market sold Wylan’s Hard Apple Cider, Sour Apple Blow Pops and a slew of apples from the U.S. and Chile in refrigerated boxes: Fuji, Granny Smith, Gravestein, Golden Delicious — all from Washington®. At Walgreens, they sold apples from Chile, apple-flavor-infused gum, and vacuum-sealed organic apple meal-bars for $3.50. The packaging for these apple meal-bars had majestic pictures of mountains, which was a shame because you had to tear up and trash the packaging away to get the apple. At Crêpes-A-Go-Go, when we asked about apples, the cashier took a cigarette break. In the see-through fridge behind where he stood sat plump little bottles of Martinelli’s. Subway allows customers to substitute an apple for a bag chips in combos. A few doors down at Wylan’s, you can get your paws on apple-flavored rolling paper.
Further down Bancroft Way was the Berkeley Student Food Collective (BSFC), a store of fresh, local and organic produce. They sold dried apple rings, butter, sauce and chips. They even sold apples in their trail mix. Sometimes they have apples grown from century-old Gravestein trees grown by Bernie, the remarkable apple farmer and brewer. Sometimes they sell morning-made creme-cheese sandwiches with apples. They also sell oatmeal with apples, and pastries from Cheeseboard during the school year. In wood crates at the front of the store were brimming, freckled Granny Smiths from Ferrard Farms in Linden, California, and red-orange and pink Galas from the Berkeley farmer’s market. Put simply when we saw these apples snug in their crates we were immensely happy because what happens to these apples, in some sense, happens to all apples. As we were leaving the BSFC, one girl shouted, “Yay apples, you have them!” She bought six.
La Notè on Shattuck had on their menu Petillant de Pommes and Assiette de fromage et pommes. We were hungry and wanted to try their food, but the doors were locked, so we carried on. The two convenience stores near University Avenue sold Red Delicious and Fuji Washington® apples made in the USA, just like the apples sold at the RSF.
From across the bay, the orange setting sun was casting long shadows up University.
By the time we reached Slow, some of us were complaining, wanted to go home, had ink all over our fingers from all the hurried notes we took, tired from walking a slight distance and eyeing fruit left and right.
Exasperated, one of us said, “I can take apples all day but not apples all night!” To which another replied, staring deep into the gutter, “Apples don’t think — they don’t think like us.”
Clearly, we were all tired. So we quickly slumped inside the restaurant and ordered before we could get too discouraged. For dinner, we were having Pink Lady apples with pork belly.
When the pork belly came, we cheered. The Pink Ladies were cut and stacked like matchsticks in every corner of the plate. We pushed them with our forks through the pork juices and the cabbage and the potatoes. It was tasty but wasn’t the best pork belly that we had. Sometimes we feel like posh little restaurants get away with small portions by throwing in clever garnishes, like these apples. After a long day of work, however, we were happy just to be sitting together.
After the meal, we talked with the cook, Kyle Anderson. He told us of when he first set out into the world of work, the only place that would hire him was McDonald’s. After a long string of jobs at high end restaurants in Nebraska, Chicago, Manhattan, Denver and Arizona, Kyle settled in the Bay to have at its awesome variety of fresh and local produce. Now in his own professional kitchen, he makes high-quality, gourmet food without being fine dining establishment. The pink lady apples he used had been grown in New Zealand.
It was dark out by the time we left the restaurant, and all of the streetlights were on. Excited and well-fed, we cut through campus toward the Daily Cal’s northside office to get out of the chilling weather. On the way there, the wind through the eucalypti made us wonder how when it rains in counties like Linden, the Gala trees will grow skyward and into the soil. Soon after, farmers will labor hard for the harvest, day and dark morning. After it rains in counties like Linden, people in cities like Berkeley will have apples.