My family and I went apple picking this weekend.
The weather was perfect—a wide blue sky, Indian summer heat, leaves just beginning to color at the edges from too little sunlight. Of course, we weren’t the only people with this idea; hundreds of families swarmed the fields, toting babies in pumpkin-patterned slings and little kids clutching apples the size of their heads.
“Everyone is happy,” my mother observed, and it was true. Each face we passed was a shade of contentment, lovers holding hands as they strolled along the furrows, teenagers screaming gleeful jokes across the garden patch.
Everyone likes autumn, I’ve decided. It’s a combination of easy temperatures, landscape colors pulled from sunset, the child-like ignorance of the seven months of cold and drizzle ahead. As a collective we’ve agreed to enjoy the final vestiges of generous, loving Nature, revel in the harvest as Earth begins to close up shop. And we eat our feelings.
To this end, I got particularly excited when I discovered the u-pick brussels sprouts.
I have a strange fascination with brussels sprouts. These tiny cabbages are adorable, first of all, but they have a lovely texture that absorbs the best of any spice or flavor. Given the chance, I would happily forage for them like a true hunter-gatherer. But I’d never seen them growing on a stalk before, so needless to say, I was stoked.
What is THAT???
Oh, oh. It’s a brussels sprout…bush. Thing. Look at them, all clustered along the stalk like weird heads popping out of a lettuce. Cabbage Patch kids, only way more disturbing.
Then I got down on my hands and knees and entered the jungle.
Holy smokes, these plants are huge.
Removing the sprouts was a real wrestling match. The large majority refused to snap off, so I twisted and yanked and destroyed several plants in the process, I fear. I wondered if it would be easier to simply rip the whole confusing creature out by the roots. Or maybe if I chucked a bomb in the center of the colony, the whole garden would explode with a shower of sprouts. Epic battles were waged, significant casualties counted. By the time I emerged victorious, I was covered in dirt, panting heavily, and holding approximately half a pound of brussels sprouts.
But I was glowing with the thrill of it all, living off the land like a real settler, testing my mettle against the wilderness and learning that, given enough time, patience, and carefully controlled, pre-cultivated cropland, I could gather enough food for at least one 3-year-old.
Assuming, of course, 3-year-olds ate brussels sprouts.