As a child from Long Island, NY a quick trip to the Jericho Cider Mill was never quick. On Route 106, it’s one of those seasonal places with cars strung up against the shoulder, lines of patrons winding through a maze of apple butters, pumpkins, and baked loaves of sticky breads tucked away in clear plastic bags rigged with ribbons and tacked with scalloped stickers. Back then it seemed all its goods were showcased on its deep-sloping lawn like a woman outfitted in a new day dress with even newer bazooms. With nothing to hide, the Mill seemed to lay it all bare, exposing its many apples in their individual crates, each with its unique description*, distinguishing the tart from the sweet, a good eating apple (Macoun, Gala, and sorry, but Red Delicious are anything BUT) from an applesaucey tartlet (hello, Fuji), and an apple built mostly for its composure under heat (Idareds hold their shape; and no one can resist a Honeycrisp–no one). But what consumed me most was beyond the stacked confections, side by side, pie to pie.
Even more than their apple turnovers, I always looked forward to inching our way up to the checkout counter. Inside the storefront, pent up behind refrigerator doors, were gallons and half-gallons of their clouded liquigold–a murky brown juice, so tart and crisp, I salivated in the waiting. I liked to gulp it cold, until my stomach had no more room. One cup was never enough, and that first go at it couldn’t be a taste. I had to finish it, right then. Without stopping. Even if some were to drip down my face. Even if the person behind me was impatient, leaning over me, extending a folded bill. I couldn’t walk and drink. I had to stand still and deal with it–with the respect it deserved. It’s the only way to do cider. Cold. Gulped. Tang at the top of your palette, a snap. And, damn, do I miss it.
Those days where the lawn seemed large, where the driveways seemed immense, where everything seemed bigger, and home always felt like socks warmed on a radiator. Not so young that peanut butter smeared on an apple passed as a fun snack, but young enough not to know what it’s like to miss. Young enough where you don’t know any differently, where life feels like it will always be lived in the walls of your house. When you think that room of yours will always be yours. Where home life consists of your mother dragging you through her errands, getting a lollipop from the man at the dry cleaners, a sticker from the lady at the bank. You hold your nose when your mother forces you to accompany her into the seafood store for a pound of flounder and some raw deveined shrimp. Your father clunks his way up the stairs in his heavy leather shoes, briefcase in hand, the one you always saw on his bed, with that yellow legal pad, a place for a pen, but the calculator was on his desk. You liked those golden little dials, the combination on the outside. Your favorite part was pushing those little chicklet buttons, watching the clasps fly open. It was the closest you came to a trap door. Those days were spent fighting your sister for your parents’ attention after a day filled with school bells, hallways, cafeteria ladies, and bus stops.
There’s so much strung up in such a simple memory of a quick stop at a mill with your mom. Thanks Mom and Dad for the 33 years you’ve given me.
* As a side note: I can’t help but also think of vanilla in this way: Madagascar Vanilla can arm wrestle all the rest, boasting brightly in ice creams, but paired with its brainy sister Indonesian Vanilla is better suited for baking since it can withstand high temperatures. I LOVE LEARNING THIS SHIT. It’s always worth the trouble to me, even if I’m the only one who knows. For texture, I also blend cake and bread flours when I make chocolate chip cookies. Psycho? Just a wee bit.