OLD-SEASON APPLES

by Ed Halmagyi

Instructions

It’s pretty galling, this getting-old thing, and I’m not happy about it.

It was bad enough when I realised that my new employees were born after I’d left school. Then my loving wife was kind enough to inform me that grey chest hairs are ‘cute’. Cute? Dammit woman, it’s a sign of corporeal decay, not some badge of whimsy.

But the final straw came just the other day during my fortnightly haircut. Henry, my dear old barber, looked me over as his clipping was done and announced, “You know, Mr Eddie, I think today maybe I trim those eyebrows of yours.”

My what? Did he say eyebrows? Henry’s no comic, and his deadpan face failed to indicate a well-meaning ribbing.

I was crushed: Henry’s generous offer was the last rites for my youthful swagger. Bushy eyebrows (and ears for some) are the undeniable mark of the old man. My grandfather had bushy eyebrows. Robert Menzies had bushy eyebrows. So am I now, resplendent with eye-gazebos, hurtling towards a Zimmerframe?

I am aging like fine milk.

But solace was to be found, as it so often is for me, in the kitchen. Faced with the challenge of working months ahead for television, I find myself testing Autumnal recipes in the peak of summer.

I had to make an apple cake, yet apples are completely out of season. All the apples for sale right now have been in cold storage for up to nine months – there’s nothing ‘fresh’ about this fresh fruit. In part that’s the argument for eating seasonally – right now it’s all about the mangoes, stone fruit and melons – but sometimes it is the exception to the rule that allows us to appreciate our favourites from a whole new perspective.

You see as apples age, their flavour and nutrient value does diminish. But as they dry out they lend themselves to caramelisation in ways that were impossible when they were newly-picked.

And so my old-man apples, despite their wrinkles and sagging flesh, made one of the most delicious upside-down cakes I’d ever tried. Who would have thought a dilapidated fruit had so much to offer.

I can only hope that in my forthcoming decrepitude I might find something similarly excellent to offer. Forget the mid-life crisis or the travails of ‘man-opause’ – call me Granny Smith!
Upside down apple cake

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