Oh, fall. I am just not sure about you. Why does it have to be so dark and gloomy? Why all the pumpkin spice everything everywhere? How many minutes until I can go to the beach again? Are we almost there? I made caramel apples the other day, which is one of the five or so things I do like about fall, and I ate them so fast I bruised my gums a little bit. Caramel and apples go together like caramel and apples, don’t they? Here’s my recipe: Buy some crispy, crunchy apples at the perfect peak of their apple perfection. Then also (here’s my secret ingredient) buy this kit. Presto, instant gratification is yours. Making caramel apples like that is the only way I’ve ever done it, and they are perfectly good, although they always make me think of this: once when I was young, my friend Richie’s mom made caramel apples the other way, in a saucepan on the stove using butter and sugar and cream and vanilla, and stirring it forever and ever, and then spearing an apple with a fork and dipping it in there, ohmygoodness. The buttery golden caramel coating was an inch think, and so soft and gorgeous, and the pan on the stove was so coated in candy that it looked like she might as well just throw it away afterwards. She casually plonked the dripping apples to cool right on the countertop, and we all hovered there, on a cold Friday night in October in Michigan, after the football game, maybe still in our marching band uniforms, suspenders up over white t-shirts, dark green wool pants, jackets discarded on a chair by the fireplace, plumes and spats and saxophones and drumsticks in a pile somewhere, wondering at this crazy level of love that makes a person use a candy thermometer and ruin a pan to making a treat that will stay in a person’s memory for thirty years. I think of that every year, when the leaves start to litter the yard and the air in this farm town smells spicy and smoky; Richie’s mom making caramel apples from scratch, using the forks from her drawer to dip them, and then saying, “Who needs some cider? How about a doughnut?” and the bunch of us standing wide-eyed in her old kitchen, waiting for them to cool, the Tigers on their way to win the World Series on the TV in the other room. There was a bonfire later, a 20-foot high pile of brush from their farm, and we were sugared up and warm, warm, warm. Golden.
In other, non-caramel news, I have stitched up a cozy for my wonderfully fluffy but sorta silly-looking down-filled throw. It is the softest thing ever, but it is, for some reason, covered in penguin-print fabric, and the penguins are holding up signs that say “Candy Canes: 5 cents.” I love this thing so much I want to drag it everywhere I go, but the penguins…well, that problem was solved in an afternoon, with a stack of gray-toned and wintery-looking fabrics, cut in 10 1/2” squares and seamed together on the machine. I backed it with a soft gray cotton sheet, and made an envelope closure on the patchwork side, secured with buttons and loops of ribbon. The silly penguins with their candy cane marketing signs are safely tucked inside.
There, caramel apples and down duvets; that’s two good things about fall. I can’t think of a third right now.