Saturday November 13, 2010

American Gothic Orchard in protest of Crazy

I get it. The grand tradition of magazines, newspapers, and online publications publishing a controversial article to generate a little buzz and enjoy the subsequent boost in sales/traffic. I know the baseless claims made in that kind of article don’t require redress, but I can’t help myself. I’ll take the bait.

Back in 2006, and essentially every autumn since, Slate trots out this pretty nutty article by Daniel Gross, wherein he vilifies you-pick orchards as “a wasteful scam” and hates on family farms for trying to earn a living.


Seeing this article in Slate’s sidebar raises my blood pressure. I left a comment, just to release the crazy pro-orchard pressure I had building inside, but it has since disappeared. The pressure builds. I have to say something.

I thought of linking to it, for those of you wanting to stare crazy in the face, but honestly, can’t bring myself to drive any traffic whatsoever to this guy’s nut job article. If you want to read it, Google stands ready to make it happen.

Perhaps like me, you’ll come away with the firm belief that Daniel Gross purchased a one way ticket to Crazytown on the Super Crazy Express and that, on his arrival, his obvious and superlative powers of crazy led the citizens of Crazytown to promptly inaugurate him as mayor for life.

At any rate, his argument consists of equal parts straw man and sour grapes. He seems pissed that people (yuppies in particular) will pay money to do the work of apple picking, enjoy themselves, and support a local business. I mean, he literally innumerates those points against orchards, griping that Americans only love nature when it serves them.

Sure, our country could stand to appreciate nature for nature’s sake a little more, but some farmers making a living off a few acres of apple trees hardly constitutes the pinnacle of selfish environmental exploitation.

Mayor Gross goes on to lump visiting an orchard into classic American over-consumption, right up there with, “McMansions, SUVs, all-you-can-eat buffets.” Riiiiight. Uh, yeah, Dan. Totally the same category.

Behold the following:

“[…] it’s a given that people leave pick-your-own orchards with a surfeit of apples. We left with two almost-full small bags, about 20 pounds, or between 60 and 70 apples. In a good week at home, we’ll go through a dozen. Pickers tell themselves they’ll put the farm-fresh apples to good use: making homemade apple sauce, or whipping up an apple pie. But most people don’t have the time. Besides, pick-your-own orchards sell the processed versions right there, in the irresistible form of apple cider and apple-cider donuts. (Even when they go to pick fresh produce, Americans use it as an excuse to consume deep-fried, carb-loaded junk.)”

I need to do some deep breathing exercises before I can tackle this utter garbage. Oh, golly, two “almost-full” small bags of apples. Get a hold of yourself buddy. Have you ever heard of a refrigerator? How do you think we find apples at the store in March? Chuck those pommes in the veggie bin and chill the eff out!

Mayor Crazy didn’t conduct a scientific study to conclude a majority of apple pickers,“don’t have the time.” Rather, he blithely made his proclamation and moved on to other tidbits of wacky. I’ll get at least semi-scientific and quote that, according to the respected Nielsen Company, in the 3rd quarter of 2009, “the average American watched 31 hours of TV per week.”

So, contrary to his assertions that most of the apples will languish, unloved, unconsumed, in some urban kitchen due to a poverty of time, it appears Americans sit plopped on the couch, frittering away their free time with Real Housewives, not apple frittering away their free time like real housewives.

Even if the apples should rot on someone’s counter because he didn’t have the brains to refrigerate them for enjoyment all winter long, how does the orchard get the blame? Shouldn’t Gross rail against NBC or SyFy for cranking out all the drivel that keeps folks glued to the couch instead of enjoying the simple pleasures of baking? Or tirade against those who prefer to watch crap rather than do something pleasurable and proactive?

And, holy crap, if I’ve learned one thing during my brief time in the food blog world, it’s this: scores, hordes, even gads of American citizens, wait in the wings, eager and willing to make and bake old favorites, try out new recipes, share tips, and generally celebrate baking at home. I have an awful lot more faith in the apple picking crowd, Mr. Gross notwithstanding.

The quoted paragraph concludes with Lord Crazy Pants hating on orchards’ in-store bakeries, because God forbid someone buy a freshly made apple turnover or an apple cider doughnut, or warm up with a mug of fresh, preservative free cider. In a world of This is Why You're Fat, the resurrected McRib, Snickers® Bar Chunks and Cheesecake, and Paula Dean's Krispie Kreme Burger he considers the humble apple turnover “carb loaded junk”?! If a product, hand made from local ingredients constitutes junk, I’d like to know exactly how high he has raised the culinary bar.

At another point he laments that the cost of going to an orchard isn’t significantly cheaper than buying store-bought apples, even though the supply chain costs should have been eliminated and the value passed on straight to him. Yeah, remember how at the orchard you got to use a bathroom? Or how your kids damaged the trees with over zealous picking? Or how the orchard had lovely, manicured paths down which you could stroll? Those things cost money.

Rosco and I, along with Mr. Bravetart, recently went to Reed Valley Orchard where we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, supported a local business, tasted unique varieties of apples not sold in stores, and drank cider to our hearts content.

All in all, we had such an insanely pleasant day that I can’t even begin to imagine how someone could go to an orchard and feel the need to run around and spew vitriol at the folks responsible for facilitating a lovely afternoon.

I came home happy, invigorated, and ready to defend the orchards of America.

golden apples

1: Where else can you find and enjoy unique heirloom apples like the Brushy Mountain, introduced in the 19th century? It has an intensely aromatic quality, and you won’t find it at the grocery.

Nor will you find many of the 50+ varieties of apples Reed Valley cultivates; and though it may cause Gross great confusion to compare apples to apples, they each have a unique shape, color, and flavor that should really help set each one apart. It’s not rocket science. I don’t have an iphone, but I bet Apple has an apple app.

apple picking basket

2: Sure, you could make apple turnovers any time of the year. But what can compare to eating a fresh, flaky turnover as you stroll amongst the apple trees? Or pretend to, at any rate. Reed Valley Orchard has a booth at the Lexington Farmers' Market, so I made a batch of turnovers before our shoot. You can make and bake a batch of turnovers within the duration of Dancing With the Stars, so let me assure you (and Dan Gross) that you have time for this simple treat.

flaky turnover

3. I defy you to call flaky, all butter crust, stuffed with a variety of local apples, seasoned with freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves “carb loaded junk.” Is this a portrait of junk?

Apple Gothic

4. Where else can you get away with shenanigans like posing hoisting apple picking baskets into the air, plucking the best apples from the top branches, and posing for ridiculous photos you’ll enjoy for the rest of your life?

Mr. BraveTart and I came up with, “Apple Gothic.” You know. Like American Gothic? Right? Kinda? I mean…okay, nevermind.

Just a little orchard humor…

apples in dispair

The end of apple season approaches. While Reed Valley stays open until November 29th (Kentuckians: go! go!), with late harvest apples still in their prime, many of the trees from the early harvest have shed their leaves and started to hunker down for the winter.

So, if you haven’t already hit up an orchard, go while you still have time. Enjoy varieties of apples you won’t see the rest of the year, taste something new. Spend a little time in your kitchen, use my recipe for blitz dough and crank out some tasty apple treats. If, like Dan, you think of turnovers as “carb loaded junk” try a savory Caramelized Onion and Apple tart. Make the most of the fall crop while the air’s still crisp.

apple picking

posted byStellaand filed under:  Farms  Fruit  Local  Sideshow Photos  Tarts

25 comments and counting

Nov 13, 2010 · 10:53 AM

What a disgusting article. My God. Kudos to you for speaking up – everything you’ve said is so true!

And by the way, I really love the “Apple Gothic” idea. Very cute!

 · Kaitlin ·

Nov 13, 2010 ·  1:46 PM

I never thought I’d want a framed portrait of another couple in my living room. Until now.

 · Mallowsota · 

Nov 14, 2010 · 10:49 AM

The apples to apples and Apple apple app is one of the best paragraphs I ever read. The writing in this blog is absolutely superb.

 · deadly · 

Nov 14, 2010 · 11:58 AM

You’ve got an iphone, yes? I bet there is an app, find it!!

Perhaps John and I do need to get an enormous print of this photo to hang over our mantle, that would be pretty hysterical. Thanks guys!


Nov 14, 2010 ·  3:01 PM

I can’t believe people can’t “find the time” to make anything out of the “almost-full” bags they picked, and thank you for making the comment about how long people spend in front of a television. I have a girlfriend who feeds her family of five on one income because she goes out and picks berries in the summer and apples in the winter. This saves her tons of money in the long run. So far this fall she has made applesauce and canned apple pie filling for quick easy pie making throughout the rest of the year. Only takes her a few hours to do so. The berries are frozen for muffins, tarts, and other various items. This helps out both the small farmer (who may be too small for a retail store to pick up) and the family on a budget. Who is this guy kidding?

 · im4punk · 

Nov 14, 2010 ·  6:30 PM

Well that dude is blah, blah, blah shady. I grew up in upstate NY smack dab in orchard heaven. We picked to our hearts content and then placed our mass amounts of apples in the cellar where they would remain cool and crisp til we managed to do them all in.
We made pies, applesauce, baked apples, and just ate them in their natural state…who doesn’t have time for that?

 · Mousey · 

Nov 15, 2010 · 10:06 AM

I love orchards and I have a highly romanticized dream about having my own teeny tiny farmlet with one in my very own yard someday. But in the meantime, clearly I am going to have to read that article…when I have more time to get thoroughly worked up about a nutjob with access to an audience.

In the meantime, I love love LOVE Reed Valley (just went Saturday) and your photos there. Sorry I wasn’t along for that ride. Can we fit in another food+cute kids=more BT exposure for A&W?

 · Kingwell · 

Nov 16, 2010 · 11:48 AM

I love apple picking! It was one of the best activities/outings for the students we hosted from other countries. We would go for a drive, pick a bunch of apples and send the poor (always hungry) students home with all kinds of apples and apple products…yes the hot from the grease donuts were the favorites! It was truly a cultural experience the students talked about for years!

 · Maureen · 

Nov 16, 2010 ·  8:03 PM

Thanks to everyone stepping up to cheer for orchards! @K, three cheers Reed Valley!!


Nov 17, 2010 ·  2:44 PM

Well done, and nice use of light in your shots (or lack thereof), strong work once again.

 · Paul · 

Nov 22, 2010 ·  4:46 PM

Slate’s contrarian bent seldom fails to annoy. Nice post. Lovely photos.

 · Michelle ·

Apr 25, 2011 ·  2:05 AM

I couldn’t agree with this more. It’s a little late to be commenting on this, but I just found this blog a day or so ago. My dad absolutely loves to go to orchards and hand pick peaches so he can dry them and have fried peach pies (his favorite kind of pie) whenever he feels like it. Going to orchards and picking produce there is most certainly not a waste! That guy’s elevator clearly doesn’t go to the top floor, if you catch my drift.

 · Kaite · 

Apr 25, 2011 ·  9:18 PM

Kaite, thanks for your comment! I am always happy to have more orchard lovers joining the party. I would love a fried peach pie right about now.


Nov 11, 2011 ·  2:15 PM

i especially like this article as I favor a good Winesap with a hunk of stilton. Any help on the perfect Mincemeat tart?

 · Gil · 

Nov 12, 2011 ·  9:15 PM

@Gil, oh winesaps are so wonderful! Also a huge fan of Arkansas black. I’m working on mincemeat. Don’t have it quite to a share-worthy place yet, but stay tuned!


Jan 31, 2012 ·  7:25 AM

Hi Sir,

Growing apples at home can be an extremely rewarding enterprise for home growers. Besides growing our own fresh produce, the glossy green leaves and sweet frangrant apple blossoms of an orchard make a beautiful visual addition to any property. For people who are especially fond of apples, several trees can be planted together to form a small apple orchard. Take a couple of simple steps to guarantee good quality and production in our apple orchard,

i just want to know, what’s the proper process to increase to our apple production, we have all the facility to grow the apple, but we don’t have proper idea how to utility these all these resources. so pls sent to me call latter so that i come to USA to know the whole process over there, i m very thankful to you if you do this kindness to me,

thanks, in advance,

kuldeep thakur

 · kuldeep thakur · http://na

Jan 31, 2012 ·  5:09 PM

@kuldeep, I’m afraid there’s been some sort of misunderstanding… As much as I like orchards, I don’t know a single thing about them!


May 26, 2012 · 11:51 AM

Thanks for your article for the “nitwit” that shows his ignorance and laziness in his tirade against pick your own orchards. I can’t grow the things we had as kids and going to pick your own or pick on halves not only gives a better quality product (too many times anything bought from the store ruins the next day – even in the refrigerator)but is cheaper in the long run. You were much kinder in your reply to this than I would have been.

 · Claudia · 

May 26, 2012 ·  4:18 PM

@Claudia, Amen! Though it did take a few versions for me to calm down.


May 22, 2013 ·  6:26 AM

Orchard humour = Awkward humour
Love it all Stella <3

 · Vicky G · 

May 22, 2013 ·  5:33 PM

haha, thanks Vicky!


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