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Landrum Wanderings: A lesson on nonstick cookware (or don’t judge a poet by his name)

Editor’s note: List wrote this column many years ago when living in Colorado.

When fall approaches, autumn leaves dress the trees in reds and golds, and varieties of apples appear at the roadside stands, and I always know it’s time to make apple crisp.

I hope you enjoy the following story and recipe.

Sometimes when you’re looking for one thing, you find another.  What you find might be a new treasure that you didn’t know you had. And maybe you never find the thing you were looking for that took you to this treasure.

It happened to me recently. I bought McIntosh apples at the farmers market.  McIntosh are the apples of my New York state childhood.  Every fall when I would see the McIntosh stacked in a neat pyramid in the grocery store, I knew it was time for baking apple pies and my favorite apple crisp. So, when I saw the McIntosh at the farmers market, I could already taste the warm, bubbly apple crisp that I would bake that evening.

When I arrived home, I began a search for my apple crisp recipe, a recipe that I had used since the ‘60s when I was a young housewife (today we call it a “stay at home mom”). I pulled out several old recipe books and files and sorted through pages and clippings from magazines, showing recipes I had never made but always thought I would.

As I unfolded one paper, I read the heading of the article, “A Lesson On Non-stick Cookware” clipped from McCall’s Magazine, May 1963.  As I read through the “lesson” telling me how to care for Teflon and that in spite of “some early rumors, the non-stick finishes were perfectly safe,” I noticed a poem printed in the middle of the page.

Now, I love poetry, especially poetry that exalts the wonder of nature—woodlands, fields and meadows, walks in the sunshine so I was delighted to discover this poem titled, Bequest.

BEQUEST

Somewhere there is a child who does not know

The touch of fieldstone sun-warm in his hand,

Who has not felt a million summers flow

From sand to rock and halfway back to sand.

Somewhere there is a child who has not seen

The great green thrust of maypops by a wall,

Or watched a fish fan thoughtfully between

Sunlight and shade, or heard a kildee call.

Look, child, I will to you this pebbled path,

This treetop full of sky, this meadowed place,

Praying that if the world’s hard aftermath

Will leave some kind of love across your face,

Then you will come and find good and new,

As it was when I wanted it for you.

I loved the poem and read it through again. But then the author’s name caught me by surprise, Edsel Ford. The incongruity of the poem and this name swirled through my mind Ford, cars, noise, traffic. How ironic, I thought, that a man from a family responsible for the auto industry would have written a poem bequesting to a child of the future, the joys of nature. I concluded that Edsel Ford had been a gentle man, a man with a great appreciation for nature and sunshine, walking through woods, and watching fish swim. He never dreamed of a world with millions of cars on the road, interstate highways, and all the complications of our modern world. His bequest was for simple enjoyment of what this earth is about. 

I wondered if he had written other poems, equally as enjoyable. So I went to my computer in search of other poems. What a surprise when I discovered there had been two Edsel Fords in the world, one from the famous Ford family, and another, a renowned poet, born on a farm in Arkansas!

So maybe I should say, “Don’t judge a poet by his name” or “A poet by the same name might not be a poet!” But the real message is: Enjoy the poetry and maybe you know a child who “will come and find good and new, As it was when I wanted it for you.”

As often happens, one day when I had given up searching, my old recipe appeared.

I peeled my apples, grated nutmeg and lemon rind, and started cooking. It was as delicious as I remembered, made all the sweeter by the discovery of a treasure, a lovely poem waiting for me all these years, stuck in the middle of a lesson on non-stick cookware.

Apple Crisp

3-4 large apples (MacIntosh are a northern apple. Golden Delicious or Arkansas Blacks are a good choice here in the South)

½ cup seedless raisins

1 tsp grated lemon rind

½ cup + 1 tbs butter

1 cup flour

½ tsp ground nutmeg (fresh grated is best)

¾ to 1 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Wash, peel, and thinly slice apples (about 6 cups) into 8x8x2 baking dish. Sprinkle apples with raisins, some lemon juice and lemon rind, dot with 1 tbs. butter cut into small pieces.

In a medium bowl, toss together flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg. Then with a pastry blender or two knives cut ½ cup butter into flour until shortening and flour particles are the size of small peas.

Spread crumb mixture evenly over apples. Bake 40 minutes or until apples are tender and crumb crust is crisp and well browned. Enjoy!

If you enjoy reading about cooking and collecting recipes, watch for my new column, written with my sister, called “Two Sisters Cook,” debuting the first Saturday in October, here in the Tryon Daily Bulletin.