birthday by the bushel and a peck


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.



  1. Happy Birthday Stephanie! May it be one of your best!

    For some reason I'm now craving fresh-out-of-the-oven apple pie, with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream! Grrr…


  2. happy 33rd!

    I grew up in Jericho and trips to the cider mill were always a favorite – thanks for bringing me a happy memory today – I really needed it.

  3. So many of my happy memories are punctuated with delicious food smells. The smell of coffee at my mom and dad's house. Bacon and eggs made over a camp fire when I was a little girl, camping with the family. That amazing smell of pumpkin pie and pecan pies baking. Even the smell of bananas in the fruit dryer.

    You could drop me off blind and deaf in my mom and dad's house and I'd know it by smell. It is the smell of comfort, peace, support and love. I never tire of it.

    Happy birthday.

  4. Happy Birthday! Your writing has me craving apples now, I can practically taste them even with the taste of red onion still on my tongue.

  5. Okay I grew up 20 minutes from there and never even HEARD of this place, let alone went there.

    Your poor, deprived neighbor,

  6. Happy Birthday! Wishing you a another year of happiness and love!

    This is such a great post. Brought back memories to me too of autumn, apples and going to the orchard to pick them with my mother, brother, aunt and grandparents. My mind can smell and taste those apples now. Mom and Dad live in PA and still go to the orchard but now they buy them already picked.

    These days I pick grapefruit and lemons from my yard so that's a good thing too. Still I miss those old days of fall and I especially miss having my grandparents around.

  7. "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."

    It's sentences like the one above that make me long to be a writer, or at least be able to capture a feeling, a moment, a memory, in words. Here's to 33 years of memories – and countless more. Happy birthday!

  8. I LOVE the Cider Mill. We have several here in Michigan, but I still go to the Franklin Cider Mill because that's where my family always went when I was a child. It's cramped, damped, parking is chaotic but I'm there every Fall.

    The cider is good, but I have to admit that I'm really there for the super fattening hot donuts. You have to cram them down your throat immediately because once they cool they become a heavier version of crappy Duckin Donuts. And let's not forget about the large selection of unique cheeses…yum

    We're going this weekend. After reading this, I'm really ready to temporarily through my carb moderation to the wind. Thanks!

  9. Happy Birthday!

    I share the psychotic obsession the baking. I mix pastry and bread flours, though. Instead of measuring them by volume I weigh them. I second the Indonesian bean preference.


  10. I live in Jericho, so this post really hit home! You just got me motivated to take the kids to the Cider Mill now for fresh apples and honey for the New Year!

    Happy Birthday and Happy New Year! :)

  11. Happy Birthday Stephanie!! Hope you and the family enjoy your day. I'm also a Long Island girl (much older). Never went out for the apples but we go strawberry picking on the North Fork every June.

  12. Happy birthday! We moved to Texas from New Jersey when I was entering the 7th grade, and the thing I missed most was the beautiful autumns — and all the sights and scents that came with them. I

  13. So I am originally from MN and thus had never heard of the Jericho Cider Mill … until I met my boyfriend who grew up in Syosset. The Jericho Cider Mill is his heaven on earth. In fact, he is usually first in line when they open in the fall. He LOVES their apple pie, cider and those delicious apples. We actually drove from Manhattan out to Long Island yesterday just to stock up on pies. :-) Now I'm a huge fan of the place too — never had anything like that back home.

  14. Hi Stephanie, I have read both books, congrats to you! I am still befuddled re: your relationship with your parents. In both books your parents were either absent or assholes, at least in the way they behaved. I don't understand why you sing their praises, especially your dad who seemed needlessly cruel. Not sure if you want to go here, but it is a place where the reader of your memoirs that lacks clarity and creates confusion.

  15. Happy Birthday, Stephanie! Love the post. I have different farm memories, but this one make me want to head into the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to the nearest apple orchard!

  16. Love this post. You truly captured those memories in all their cidery and Autumn traditional glory. It definitely reminds me of the good times I had going to the pumpkin patch and going on hay rides. I always thought it'd all stay the same too, somehow.

  17. Love the Guys and Dolls title.
    Third paragraph got me.
    My grandmother had a combination on her suitcase andshe always pulled "surprises" from there so I figured there was some combination to the surprises.
    I've heard of people mixing both flours, add instant pudding mix and see what happens. *smacks lips*

  18. Fall would not be complete without a trip to the Jericho Cider Mill. Just the thought of their pies, cider and apples puts me in the mood for the fall season.
    ~Cheers to the BIRTHDAY GIRL!!!

  19. I love how you capture these little moments. I think life whizzes by too fast and we forget to appreciate these. It's the way I wish I both wrote and experienced things.

  20. Happy Birthday :)

    I liked the imagery of this post, right up until after the shrimp, the mood changed a bit and I already read that stuff in other posts of your's.

    Anyway, on apples, do you have Jonagolds and Jonagoreds in the US? They're my favourite and my parents used to grew them in our garden (they got rid of the tree after a storm struck it). Here in Belgium we have lots of Jonagold, Granny Smith, Pink Ladies and some Galas too if I'm not mistaken. Cider always makes me think of Normandy and Brittany, while apples always make me think of fall (and to a lesser extent of hot strudel). I don't mind the gloomy fall weather that much anymore, I'm craving apple tartlets :)

  21. Happy birthday baby! Ah, memories of home. I'm ready! Hitting the farm stand in Riverhead in July is close, but nothing like fall. The smells, mood, tastes are all different and they think they know what cider is in Texas. I miss home!

  22. How can you reach into my brain and pull out sentiments that I thought were my own? How do you do it? Seriously? The bank errands, fish market, briefcase… that's it. That was me. I'm about your age, and also grew up in Long Island so maybe that's where the bond is… Oh, and I also know have a deep respect for the honeycrisp apple.

    You rock, woman. Happy birthday. I hope there's some cider in your near future.

  23. I love the Jericho Cider Mill. I might just have to get out there after this post.

    Happy birthday, Stephanie! I hope you had a fantastic day.

    May you live "Happily Appley"

  24. I'm from Long Island, and we always bought Jericho apple cider. I always said it tasted like drinking oxygen. It was just so good. I'm munching on a honeycrisp as I write this. Hope you had a happy birthday.

  25. I went to school across the street from the cider mill-Jericho HS and we used to go their to get "caramel apples" or jelly ones-was in Long Island celebrating the New Year with my Father..but next time I go to the island, I will have to make a stop at my favorite cider mill….thanks for bringing back good memories :)

    L'Shanah Tovah, Tikatevu!

  26. I really would like to be in high school driving to get a frapple and apple raspberry muffin for lunch (which always took longer than the allotted time with my bf Smelly. Thank you for bringing us back.

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