The Value of a Good Apple

By Celina Colby

The Value of a Good Apple

I start to get the itch just before the leaves turn. It’s late September, maybe early October. The weather has cooled down to that perfect 60-degree temperature and every storefront is touting scarecrows and decorative pumpkins. This is the blissful time in New England when Boston residents are over the sweltering summer but haven’t yet settled into their customary winter bitterness. I start wearing plaid flannel and cozy sweaters, heck I even break down and have a pumpkin spice latte. Fall is my favorite season, and I’m reveling in the two week perfection before it gets too cold to go outside.

“We have to go apple picking,” I say to my friend Jenni over an apple-themed brunch.

“Yeah, that would be really fun,” she agrees, and we settle into a debate about cider donuts versus apple pie.

As a born-and-bred New Englander, I know how to do fall. My sweater collection is 90% of my wardrobe. I’ve mastered the perfect cocoa-to-marshmallow ratio. I’ve fought people for the biggest pumpkin and won. I don’t mess around here, and apple picking is one of my favorite parts of the season.

The first hurdle is transportation. Jenni and I both live in the city, and everyone knows the good apple picking orchards start at least ten miles out (though realistically you should head to New Hampshire or Vermont for the best batches). We consider our options. Walking is definitely out; I need to wear my heeled booties for maximum autumnal style. Ubering would be too expensive and driving is out of the question as my time in the city has all but beaten any driving capabilities out of me. We contemplate hitchhiking on a rogue hayride but decide those drivers are too unreliable. We’re researching hot air balloons when I get a call from my cousin Ava.

“I’m thinking we should go apple picking. You can bring your friend Jenni, and we can get some cute photos together.”

Bless the Apple Picking Gods.

The next hurdle is the outfit. How to strike the perfect balance between festive fall and stylish sophisticate? After all, one rogue pair of Timberlands can have you on call for a neighboring construction job. I go through what must be fifteen outfits the night before. Pinterest says I can’t go apple picking without the perfect outfit, and my friend’s Instagrams of quaint farmhouses and bushels of fall food are already giving me social media envy. Ultimately I decide on a red flannel button down (classic) with a pair of black leather shorts (trendy).

The night before our adventure I fall asleep imagining a day something like the perfect apple picking memories of my youth. As a young twenty-something fresh out of school, I’m transitioning into adulthood while longing for a last taste of childhood. I imagine picking pounds of apples and then turning them into pies and scones and tarts. In this fantasy I leave out the part where my studio apartment has barely enough kitchen to fry an egg never mind bake a pie. That doesn’t matter, somehow pies will be made.

On the day of, I slip into my pre-approved outfit and the three of us drive out to the orchard. It has the ideal grey wood shack filled with cider and goodies where we purchase our over-priced, under-sized picking bags. It has the next-door pumpkin patch and the casually parked tractor. Aesthetically it’s all fitting into my master plan. But as we head out to the orchard a farmer stops us.

“Did Colleen inside tell you about the apples?”

We shake our heads.

“The apple trees have had to be sprayed with some very serious pesticides to get rid of a cockroach infestation,” he says. “So you can’t pick from them. You can, however, take apples out of the bins over there to fill up your bags. Those were picked before the spray.”

We collectively glance at two large wooden crates full of leftover apples.

“So we just paid $15 a bag and we cannot pick apples?” I say.

He laughs, but I am not amused. “I guess that’s correct.”

He heads off in the direction of the tractor and I suddenly despise his baggy overalls and scuffed boots. No longer do I find his beat up straw hat charming. No longer is my perfect fall aesthetic falling into place.

For a moment we stand quietly.

“Well I guess we should get some of the apples,” says Ava.

We trudge over to the bin and start filling our bags with the traitor apples. After a while Jenni speaks up.

“Maybe we should go into the Orchard anyway. We don’t have to pick the apples but we can take some photos and see what’s up there.”

We agree and head into the chemical minefield, our bright, cheery red shirts hitting the landscape like overripe fruit.

Our pictures turn into a large-scale photo shoot rivaling America’s Next Model. Before I know it I’m climbing empty crates and posing dramatically with a perfect, poisoned apple we find on a tree in the back. We’re running around the field getting action shots and throwing sticks up at the trees trying to knock down the most photo-ready apples. Ava and I take the first photo together we’d had since childhood (arranged family photos aside) and Jenni, our chief photographer, exercises her artistic license on important matters such as hip popping and Beyonce impressions.

Hours later we collapse on a rotting picnic bench to eat our weight in cider donuts and review the day’s photographic plunder. Our bags of impostor apples lay forgotten beside us.

I never made apple pie. In fact I haven’t turned my oven on since I moved into my apartment two years ago. But I discovered that I had all those cherished memories of apple picking not because I wore the right shirt or crafted the perfect tweet about it, but because I spent them with people I loved. Oftentimes making lasting memories isn’t about having the right aesthetic; it’s about walking into a toxic chemical environment with some good friends.

About this writer

  • Celina Colby is a Boston based writer and the founder of the style blog “Trends and Tolstoy.”

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