Posted by: thehungryrunner | January 20, 2008

The apple that thinks it’s a meal

There aren’t many eating habits I had as a teenager that I carried into adulthood, but this is one steady constant I maintain to this day:

As many of you know (I tend to share these things with anyone who will listen, or at least appear to be listening), if I had to choose one food with which to be stuck on a dessert isle, it would surely be apples.  But not just any old apples.  No, the ones that especially catch my fancy are the ones I’ve always called, “The Apple That Thinks It’s a Meal.”  You’ve seen these, haven’t you?  They’re stunningly, almost alarmingly, gargantuan; each one being the food volume equivalent of two or three of its more humble cousins.  I’m not sure what the draw is for me (could it be my first name relates to Eve?), but it’s been there ever since I was a starry-eyed ballet student carpooling to class every day.  Back then, there weren’t a lot of healthy food options at convenient and other quick-grab stores (come to think of it…..there still aren’t).  And being the quintessential gym nerd even back then, I was constantly on a mission to hunt down snacks and mini-meals that would fill me up, fuel my workouts AND still allow me to fit into my leotard (ugh…the leotard.  Whoever invented it should be force to eat a rotten apple).  Enter, White Hen Pantries (for those outside of the Chicago area, these were the local equivalent of 7-Elevens).  While the era of Power Bars and ready-made salads was not yet upon us, even back then you could always count on finding a small but dedicated selection of fresh fruits and vegetables here.  And for some reason, the apples they stocked were considerably heftier than their counterparts found at the regular grocery store.  Following the relief of discovering this culinary safe harbor, I soon realized a pleasant bonus:  that the length of time it took to finish off one of these behemoths was long enough so as to allow the full satiation to register.  I soon began to look foward to these “apple pit (seed?) stops,”  wondering which apples would be in stock — golden or red delicious?  (Back in those days, there were no such specimans as the Jazz Apple, Pink Lady, or Honeycrisp.  How DID we all get by?)

Fast-forward to today, and my ritual pretty much remains the same:  a gigantoid apple, a plate, a napkin, and a paring knife.  Slice and eat, slice and eat.  Or I’ll slice the apple in advance and pick at it slowly, lingering contentedly over each crunch.  Or slice and gently cook down on the stove, with a little cinnamon or apple pie spice sprinkled in.  I even been known to do an Apple Diet Day every once in a while, in which that’s all I eat, all sorts of apples in all sizes, colors and flavors.  It keeps me going and yet allows me to break any bad habits that have crept up in my eating.

But I suppose the ultimate reason for the allure is the simplicity:  what other food offers such a filling, nutritious and substantial — yet simple — meal?  At the end of the day, there’s a smug reassurance in being able to bypass all the foods that are either prolifically processed or “engineered” for optimal nutrition…and to turn instead to the good ol’ standby that needs no label (or decoder dictionary)!

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