Last year at this time, I remember eating a lot of apples. I didn’t discriminate; I went for all kinds. I roasted Gala apples with other vegetables; I made ribbons out of Granny Smiths for salads; and I packed at least two Pink Ladies in my bag on the way to work every day. I appreciated variety in apples, admittedly, though here is one consistency: they are a mundane symbol of how I have changed.
Back then, I had just made the first of many important decisions. In hindsight, I know that I was frightened at the prospect of a possible misstep. At the time, I had been strongly impacted by reading the words,
If you love a flower, don’t pick it up. Because if you pick it up, it dies and it ceases to be what you love. So if you love a flower, let it be. Love is not about possession. Love is about appreciation.
Those words. Those words are true. I remember finding that quote when I was overwhelmed. That feeling never left me until I left that situation, really; I remember the claustrophobic paralysis of being “picked,” and I was so scared that I might choose the wrong thing in my own life and sacrifice the possibility of appreciating what I had (read: what was fleeting).
Some of the decisions I made back then didn’t stick. Or rather, they stuck. They stuck hard. They stuck so hard that they threw all I was juggling back up into the air in a way that required a different approach to catching. Now that I stand on the other side, I can see that those decisions were never permanent. They brought into fruition other pathways I hadn’t quite traveled down in my decision-making process.
In a different vein, there are certain things I had set my mind to back then that seemed like pipe dreams. I remember making a case for myself that I might just be able to manage my own business one day. The person sitting across from me told me I could do it.
Here I am, a year later, two cities later, after months of confusion and self-doubt and difficult conversations. In the last week, I received and accepted the offer. Friends, my dream of becoming a manager-which, at once, is impossibly possible and inspiringly frightening-is finally realized. I am getting promoted.
I view everything as a result of this time last year, full of apple-roasting and -ribboning and -eating. Nothing looks the way I anticipated it would. How is it that we make decisions without ever fully comprehending their consequences? It got me to thinking that maybe we are brave to do anything at all. We are brave, because there are dominoes, and the tiniest thing can trigger that effect.
I don’t know when it started, but at some point, I stopped eating apples that weren’t in cakes. The warm kind, fresh from the oven and oozing poofs of vanilla-scented steam from their cinnamon crumbled depths. Here is a recipe crafted from a brief encounter with a good idea. With the realization of my ambitions, I guess I have a lot more space than I once did for new endeavors. Who knows what I’ll come up with next–shortbread? Pie? Puff pastry? Only time will tell.
One Year: Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, and Arugula Pasta Salad with Date Vinaigrette
Two Years: Black Bean Salsa
Three Years: Double Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti
Warm Apple Crumb Cake with Molasses Glaze
Inspired by this
Makes one square cake
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 pink lady apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp whole milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8x8x2 square pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating in-between. Beat in vanilla. Add dry ingredients in halves, alternating with the buttermilk, and mix until just combined. Fold in the apples. Pour into pan and prepare crumbs.
Whisk together flour, cinnamon, and salt. In a small bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar. Beat in dry ingredients, followed by vanilla. Scatter the crumbs atop the cake batter and bake the cake (cake will be golden and fragrant) until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, with moist crumbs attached, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before drizzling with glaze.
Combine confectioners sugar, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, and 1 tbsp whole milk, stirring until combined. Add another tbsp of whole milk, if necessary, until the mixture reaches desired consistency. Drizzle over the warm cake. Slice and serve.