In the late summers of my youth, I remember Mom drying apples. Using a small paring knife, she’d peel the fruits, trimming off large curls. “One of these days,” she would murmur to herself and whomever happened to be around, “I’m going to peel a whole apple in one string.” She’d lift a long curl to show how close she’d gotten. I’m not sure that she ever managed the feat completely but I know I was impressed. I don’t think I ever got closer than halfway.
After peeling, she’d cut the apples into wedges, then trim out the seeds and core. Mom would also pare out any bad places, bug bite black spots or any other blemishes except for tiny bruises. “Those aren’t going to hurt anyone,” she explained, “just be a bit darker than the rest.” For the actual drying part, she’d spread them out on a towel on the rear deck of the car and close all the windows to keep flies out. In the September sun of southern Kentucky, it didn’t take long for the drying.
I loved the leathery treats. I loved how the texture gradually changed in my mouth, going from tough to chewy. I loved the surprise of flavor. Whenever I’d first put a slice in my mouth there was almost no taste but then the sweetness of concentrated fructose slowly emerged. Somehow, I also liked the deception.
There was nothing about the appearance that suggested wonderful treats lay in those quart jars on the shelf in canning pantry. Brown, shriveled, twisted. To anyone unfamiliar with them, they looked like something that should have been thrown away with the peels and cores. But for those who put substance above appearance, there was a rewarding pleasure and nourishment.
I’ve known a few people like that over the years. Nothing in their appearance to draw friends around. Nothing in the superficial aspects of personality to invite acquaintance on a deeper level. But given the opportunity to demonstrate their true nature, some of the best folks I’ve ever known. People of love and character, laughter and loyalty. People who didn’t wear their faith on the bumpers of their cars or front of their tee shirts, it was melded into the mettle of their character and woven into the fabric of their lives.
I find that remarkably attractive. You know, kind of like that “content of their character” thing…