Category: food

An Apple is an Apple

I’ve been eating fruit for quite some time. I can’t say exactly how long, but I think it’s reasonable to think it’s been over forty years, depending on when my parents first started feeding me solids, and when they introduced whirled fruit into the regimen. I even have a list of my top ten favorite fruits, because lists. And you’ll note on that list that apples got an honorable mention (because I like them baked in things) but didn’t crack the top ten. So that might explain something of what follows.

More and more, I’m noticing people getting all gourmet with their apple selections. I go to a farm stand, and there’s not just “apples.” There are all sorts of named apples. Gala. Red Delicious. Macouns. Honeycrisp. And supposedly, these are all different apple experiences. Like, you can bite into one and have a certain expectations of what it will taste like versus what a different strain will bring to the table.

Yesterday I had a long debate about apple types, where multiple people tried to convince me they could see a difference between Macoun apples and Gala apples. And it felt like they were pointing out subtle variations in shades of white. They’d look at two apples and see all these differences between them. The color. The shape. Bumps on the bottom.

I looked at them and saw . . . two apples.

“Try eating them,” they told me. “Totally different.” So I tried eating them. One tasted like an apple. The other one tasted like . . . an apple.

I get that there are differences in some apples. I’ve eaten good apples and bad apples. I don’t like mushy apples. I don’t like sour apples. I only sort of like sweet apples. But maybe my commitment to apples just isn’t strong enough for me to care to distinguish the difference in the varieties. Maybe my brain just looks at them, shrugs, and says “Do we really need to care about this?”

I mean, when I go to the store, there’s just one banana section. It’s not like there are all these different strains of bananas to choose from. You get what you get. It’s yellow (or maybe green or brown, depending on ripeness). It’s curved shape. You peel it. You eat it. Case closed. Yes, there are clearly different types of bananas. There are some that are thicker and some that are stumpier. But in the end, they’re all bananas, just like apples are all apples.

If I were to bite into an apple and it was going to taste like an orange, then I’d want to know that going into my apple eating experience. I’d want a heads up that this type of apple was an orange-tasting-apple. But unless it’s something drastic like that, what’s the big deal? They’re all apples.

I realize this post is going to get many people popping up to tell me (online or in person) just how wrong I am, and just how much I need to learn to properly appreciate apples. To which I will happily agree, assuming they’re up for me telling them all about the different varieties of Magic: the Gathering cards, and how they should each be used in different situations. Or if that’s too geeky, let’s talk about surround sound system set ups, or television pictures, or the variation in quality between all the Star Wars movies or the Lord of the Rings films.

In other words, it seems like anything you want to study and devote time to can offer you some rewards, if you actually care about the item in question. And I discovered yesterday that there are some hardcore apple geeks out there, and I ain’t talkin’ ’bout computers. But just as I haven’t taken the time to care about Japanase anime, I also haven’t delved into the many wonders of apples. And that’s okay, just as it’s okay by me that you might not be able to tell the difference between 720i, 1080p, and 4k televisions. Or why a Black Lotus would be worth thousands of dollars while a Blacker Lotus is only worth five.

If you love apples, go nuts. Have a blast with your Black Oxfords and Mutsus and Blue Pearmains. But realize that your hopes of getting me to understand and recognize the differences between the two are likely going to leave you frustrated. Though if you’d ever like to bring me an apple cobbler, I won’t turn you down. Regardless of the variety of apple you used. Just make sure not to skimp on the cobbler.


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My Top Secret Swedish Nut Cake Recipe

Growing up, one of my favorite desserts was Swedish Nut Cake. It’s a delicious, moist pineapple cake with a cream cheese frosting, kind of like a less nutritious, sweeter carrot cake, if that makes sense. It’s easy to make, tastes great, and I’ve been having it for years.

Except yesterday I realized I hadn’t baked one in a while. Since I was feeling pretty chipper, I decided that was a problem I needed to rectify. And since the process went so swimmingly, I thought I’d share with you, my loyal readers, the secrets to making a really good version of this cake.

First off, it’s important to check to make sure you have the ingredients. Cream cheese is pretty much the only one that’s strange, so just check your fridge and make sure there’s some available. We had 3/4 of a pack, which I deemed to be enough. (You develop a sense for this after baking the cake enough.) Since we had cream cheese, it was Full Speed Ahead.

Next, turn on the oven and grease a cake pan. Because duh. Also, you want to make sure to commit to making this cake, and nothing says “commitment” like a greased cake pan. Cleaning that pan’s going to be a beast. You better at least get a cake out of it.

Now that the cake pan is greased, it’s time to get the pineapple. Of course, observant readers will have noted we failed to check to make sure we had a 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple ahead of time. That’s because, contrary to popular belief, a really good Swedish Nut Cake doesn’t need pineapple, as I discovered yesterday.

Once you’ve ascertained a significant Lack of Pineapple, it’s time to move on to the next step: figuring out alternative ingredients. You could Google this, but I’ll save you the trouble. Canned peaches are not an alternative to pineapple. Neither is canned fruit cocktail. The problem with these is that, while they are canned, they are the wrong fruit, and they taste nothing like pineapple, no matter how much you may wish they would work out.

However, you’ll find convenient substitutions in almost any recipe book. I personally found one in my grandmother’s, and I discovered that if you replace all the ingredients in Swedish Nut Cake (minus the greased cake pan, which I’d already committed to) with all the ingredients in her Chocolate Cake, you can still end up with a pretty dang good cake.

(You also have to swap out the directions for making the two cakes. This is key.)

Proceed to make the cake.

Now, we all know no cake is finished without frosting, and a cream cheese frosting doesn’t quite go with our new version of The Cake Formerly Known as Swedish Nut but Now Known as Chocolate, so you’d better whip up a batch of buttercream frosting to wrap this all up. This would be a convenient time to make sure you are all out of butter, having used it baking the cake. (Rookies might think being all out of butter is a problem, but it’s a vital step in making a good Swedish Nut Cake. You get a feel for where to go wrong and where to go right, over time. Don’t worry. You’ll get there too. Eventually.)

If you’ve done everything right, at this point you have a “Swedish Nut Cake” baking in the oven, and nothing to put on top of it. No way of making a decent frosting. You might be tempted to Google “How to make frosting without butter,” but I can save you the trouble. (I’m nice like that.) You can make a glaze. You can make a ganache. You can make a sauce. But you ain’t gonna be making buttercream frosting without butter.

However, there are ways around this. I delved into deepest reaches of my cake baking experience to remember that sometimes I’d poured a caramel sauce over a chocolate cake, and it tasted great. I decided that was just the thing for the task at hand. I looked up a recipe online and got cooking. Of course, the recipe called for heavy cream. Heavy cream, as any smart baker will tell you, is for chumps. I didn’t have any, so I used the handy substitute of 2% milk. The sauce was more liquidy perhaps than a novice might expect, but Swedish Nut Cake is supposed to be moist, remember?

Pour that sauce all over the top of your cake, remembering to poke holes in the cake first, so the sauce can drizzle into it. (It’s okay if you poke holes after you’ve poured the sauce already. That what the pros like me do, anyway.)

If you’ve done everything right, you now successfully have what some might call a “Watery looking plain chocolate cake swimming in caramel sauce,” but which we all know is actually a really good, professionally made Swedish Nut Cake. (If you’ve *really* done things right, your four-year-old daughter will look at the cake and ask, “Why did it melt?” But it’s okay if you don’t get to that level on your first try.)

Serve and enjoy.


Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Top Ten Fruits

Some days you’ve got deep, insightful posts, and some days you just have random stuff that occur to you at the last minute. I have nothing profound to say, so I’m going to give you instead:

My Top 10 Fruits

Honorable mention #1: Cherries. Love them, but I don’t eat them often enough to have them crack the top ten. Also: the pits.

Honorable mention #2: Grapes. I eat a fair bit of them, but they’re round, and roll all over the place too easily. They’re hard to eat quickly, because some of them inevitably have started to rot on the stem, and they sit there waiting for you to be lulled into eating them by accident. Boo!

Honorable mention #3: Apples. Just too hard. I’m sorry. I like them baked, but I actively dislike them raw. I’ll only resort to apples if I’m really getting desperate. But yay for apple cobbler.

10: Cantaloupe. Generally good fruit. I almost never pass it up on a buffet. But let’s be honest: it’s not going to win any awards. It’s just generally good. Better than honeydew, but that’s all it’s really got going for it. Can’t bake with it. Hard to peel it.

9: Oranges. I’m a big fan. Honestly. But for the love of all that’s sweet, I can’t stand peeling the dang things. Any fruit that can physically harm your fingernails has to get docked a few places. It’s a rule. But they are a key ingredient in my favorite kind of roll (orange rolls), so they’ve got that going for them.

8: Tangerines. Not as good as oranges, if I’m being honest, but so much easier to peel. It just goes to show that if the end result is easier to get to, then it wins out over a superior product that’s obnoxious to access.

7: Watermelon. Nothing like a good watermelon, right? Except they’re such a pain to actually buy and bring home and cut up. It’s not like you can just grab one on the way to work. You need a honking big knife and a cutting board to really get at them. And good luck telling if it’s going to taste good or not. I have to dock points for that.

6: Pineapple. Good stuff, the pineapple. Why did I dock the orange for being hard to access, but the pineapple gets a pass? Because the pineapple isn’t trying to be anything it’s not. It’s doesn’t pretend to want you to eat it. Its entire outside is basically a big “GO AWAY” sign. And yet once you’re able to get in there, mmmmm mmmmm good.

5: Peaches. Very tasty, but they’ve got such a narrow window of actually being good. If they’re not ripe enough, then they’re hockey pucks that taste like cardboard. If they’re too ripe, then they drip juice all into my beard. Come on, peaches!

4: Strawberries. Great fruit. Lovely in salads. But such a wide range of tastes. Finding a really perfect strawberry can be difficult, and once you finally do, you’ve eaten it in like two bites. Plus, they go rotten in the fridge too easily. On the other hand, you can cover them in chocolate really easily, since they have that built in handle. Genius.

3: Mango. My golly. Talk about a premium fruit. Honestly, this one might have made a go at one of the two top spots, except for one thing. How in the world do you eat the thing? It’s got this peel that won’t, and this pit that tries to hold onto the fruit for dear life. If my wife wasn’t around, I don’t think I’d ever eat a mango, because I’m convinced she’s one of the few people in the world who knows the secret.

2: Bananas. Probably not the flashiest fruit out there, but also the one I eat the most of. I have one for a snack every day, and I have one in my smoothie each evening. Which maybe means they should be my number one, but I just can’t. Still, they’re super easy to peel, they’re sweet and delicious, and they go great with baking. They’re just a bit . . . generic. Sorry, bananas.

1: Blueberries. In a landslide. I’ve loved these since forever, and I would gladly eat them by the bucketful. No wonder I moved to Maine. They’re great in smoothies, by themselves, on pancakes, in pancakes, in muffins. You name it. They are the best fruit ever.

In Which I Discover I Hate Cola

I don’t drink much soda these days. Every now and then I’ll have a root beer, but if I’m going to blow calories and sugar on something, it’s not likely to be something I’m just drinking. I’d much rather enjoy a brownie or a piece of cake or a cookie.

Still, I never really thought I had anything against soda in general. I’ve drank it off and on my whole life. I remember having chugging competitions back when I worked at McDonald’s. We’d all grab a supersize cup, fill them up with the soda of our choice, and see who could down theirs first. (Makes me wonder how much money fast food chains lose each year due to the fact that a significant portion of their workforce is made of high school students with only a vague understanding of ethics and a much bigger understanding of being hungry or thirsty. Remind me to tell you of the McNugget drawer sometime.)

But I digress. When we were down at Disney World, the kids brought back a bunch of bagged candy. (We had to use up our snack credits somehow.) And perhaps as a sign of how little sweets our family really eats, they’re still making their way through that candy, four months later. (Or is it a sign of how much candy we brought back?)

Yesterday, they broke out the Haribo Cola gummies, and I discovered with one horrified whiff that I don’t just dislike cola. I loathe it. It makes me physically nauseous just to smell it, even in gummy form.

This was surprising, since I haven’t had Coke in a long while. When had this aversion come on me? And then I figured it out.

I get migraines every so often. About once a year, or once every other year. I used to get them much more frequently. Every month or so. I went to a neurologist, and they asked if I drank much caffeine. Nope. What about aspartame? What was that, I wanted to know. Artificial sweetener in soda.

At the time, that’s about all I drank. Diet soda was very popular in my house growing up.

So the doc said to avoid aspartame and caffeinated sodas, and to see if the migraines went away. I did, and they did. But I’ve also been told that caffeine can make migraines go away. My migraines are awful. They last for hours, I’m completely wiped out by them, and then can leave me wrecked for a day or two afterward. They are so incredibly painful, I would do just about anything to make one stop once it’s started. (Thankfully I’ve discovered a cure: Advil Migraine. If I take those right when the migraine starts and then head to bed immediately and go to sleep, I can skip out on the whole thing. But I didn’t always know that.)

When people told me to try drinking caffeine when I started getting a migraine, I did it. Every time. In fact, that was the only time I drank Coke. And apparently I did it enough over a long enough time that now the smell of Coke makes me feel nauseous, just like I’m getting a migraine.


I suppose if I were really dedicated to dieting, I’d start eating brownies every time I had a migraine coming on. For now, I’ll just remember not to let my kids get Cola Gummies next time we’re in Disney. Or at least not eat them around me.

Are there any foods out there that make you sick just to smell?

Eating the Same Lunch

General question for you all: how long can you go eating the same thing for a meal each day? I ask this for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a slow news day and a busy Bryce day, which means I don’t have a whole lot of time. But second, it’s something Denisa and I have discussed at length in the past.

Personally, I seem to have a very high tolerance for identical breakfasts. I’ve been eating the same thing for breakfast for well over two or three years. (Raw oatmeal with milk. Uncooked. With a bit of sugar and chocolate chips back when I was eating sugar, but with a few raisins now, instead.) Every day. Day after day. That’s it. I eat it because it’s quick and fast, and I’m always reading something when I eat it, so I don’t really need to care what it is I’m putting in my mouth.

For lunch, I tend to need to switch up every half year or so. I’ll eat a ham sandwich every day, and then I’ll get tired of it after a while, so I’ll go to peanut butter, and then I’ll move onto bagels, and then I’ll be back at ham sandwiches. Apparently I do eventually like diversity at lunch. Just at a glacial pace.

Dinners, are a little different. Denisa has trained me over the years to actually want some variety there, though in my college years, I was content to eat boxed mac and cheese with tuna every evening. And in all honesty, I could go back to that without too much trouble.

The biggest trick (for me) is that I generally eat meals when I’m doing something else. If I’m watching TV or reading a book or working, then what does it matter what I’m shoving in my face to keep my stomach from growling? I’m hungry, so I need to eat something. When I go to a restaurant or have a sit-down meal where I’m actually focused on the food, then yes, the “what” matters.

But generally? I just don’t care. How many of you are the same way? Inquiring minds want to know . . .

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