Tuesday, July 13, 2010
HOWARD RUSSELL, The Long Deep Furrow: "How readily the apple took to its new environment is revealed by an observation from the Berkshire Hills just before the Revolution. By 1770 the whole length of the Indian path between the settlement of the Stockbridge tribe in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and the Scaticoke village at Kent, Connecticut, nearly 40 miles along the Housatonic, was said to be lined with apple trees. They stood at irregular intervals, sprung from apple cores thrown away by traveling natives who had promptly learned to enjoy the Englishman's fruit."
PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Hardy colonial farmers came to New England and traded European apples for the native's gift of maize, but what they wanted after work was beer. The soil of New England preferred apples to English grains, and eventually hard cider became the alcoholic beverage of choice and Johnny Appleseed, a legend in his own time and a Swedenborgian, spread the news.
I've been to some hard cider "taste-offs." They tend to be partisan affairs and there can be much heady arguing over the right mix of apple varieties, the effects of weather, harvest time and, of course, the esotericisms of brewing all fueled by freely-flowing research. Perhaps there are similar discussions on the brewing of corn whiskey or Kentucky bourbon, but my hunch is they all pale beside the abstruse distinctions regarding shades of flavor, high notes and low notes and the micro-tuning of soil and sun and water and pruning and staking required to produce the perfect grape.
Such has been the evolution of the American taste bud. New Englanders still love local fruit. It's as Amercan as apple pie, but farmers are selling out to viticulturalists and the libation of choice today is cradled in stemware and served in red, white, or rosé. Where (oh, where) are our national taste buds leading our national character?