filling the empty nest with food
Whenever I roll up my sleeves and settle in to a long task in the kitchen, peeling apples for apple crisp, for example, I get mad at my feminist foremothers. Not those way in the past like Elizabeth Cady Stanton but the feminists of the 1960s and 70s who, I know, I know, worked so hard for economic equality and fought for us in the work world. I thank them for that. But, who also did much to disparage our work in the kitchen.
The unpaid work of women has gotten short shrift for decades (and centuries), and I realize it didn’t start in the ’60s, or in this country. So, I peel my dozen or so apples and get mad at anyone over the course of human history who has scorned the time and physical tasks involved in cooking and baking in your own home. And I also applaud the young DIY women who support each other in the important work of cooking their own food.
I enjoy the physicality of the work. When I peel apples, little squirts of apple juice get on my hands making them sticky sweet, cutting out the seeds allows my mind to wander to the vision of people like Johnny Appleseed and wonder about the truth of laetrile (isn’t it found in apple seeds?) and makes me appreciate the efficiency and pleasure of a sharp knife. And once the apples are duly peeled, seeds removed, sliced, and sprinkled with a little sugar and lemon juice, then comes mixing up the crunchy, buttery topping.
I prefer the recipe from The New York Times Cookbook (also from the ’60s) which includes oatmeal. (Truthfully, it’s so I can justify eating my apple crisp for breakfast.) You can stir the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, flour and oatmeal with a spoon, but the tactile experience of mixing the ingredients with your hands I find more satisfying.
Spread the soon-to-be crispy topping over all those apples you’ve just proudly peeled and sliced and get out your copy of The Feminine Mystique while it bakes for about 30 minutes in a 375° oven.
Apple Oatmeal Crisp (from the revised edition of The New York Times Cookbook)
4 cups sliced tart cooking apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar, depending on the tartness of the apples
1 cup rolled oats, either old-fashioned or quick-cooking
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
whipped cream (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Place the apples in a greased shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and sugar.
Combine the remaining ingredients, except the whipped cream, and sprinkle over the apples. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the apples are tender. Serve hot or warm, with whipped cream.