The Story : the original tale that captured the imaginations of “urban dwellers with a serious surplus” everywhere
The week started like any other in our household.
Monday morning… Jan and Franziska are off into the chilly February darkness, the grip of three-year-old Franziska’s little cold hands clutching her lunch bag to her chest matched only by her father’s concentrated determination as he attempts once again to break world cycling records in the 1000-meter dash from our house to the kindergarten gate.
Noah, eighteen months old, has finished off not only his bowl of porridge and the remainder of Franziska’s but all leftovers from dinner last night tucked under his placemat. He plays happily in the living room. I am seasoning a two-pound hunk of pork belly, my second-batch ever of home-made bacon, in preparation of its seven-day cure in the refrigerator, when the doorbell rings…
A dangerous fruit
…The weakness of men and women in the face of the world’s most dangerous and cunning fruit, the apple, is well-documented. Two fairly well-known incidences come to mind. First, shortly after the creation of the world, led astray by the serpent in the garden of Eden, we can all recount Eve’s fateful act tempting Adam with that perfectly shiny, wonderfully round, beautifully tinted in the shades of an idyllic sunset over the ocean, incredibly dangerous apple. Succumbed, Adam lost paradise.
Another equally tragic tale, a young girl with pale skin and ruby lips despised by her evil step-mother and tricked into her own (temporary) demise by an apple that must have been just as flawless and perfectly cunning as the former…
Standing on our sidewalk was, purportedly, a French farmer. In his hand he held, three small apples and one very dirty carrot.
“…Direct from Normandy…organic… keeps six months…would you like to try a slice? And from this one? And this one too?” (Note, as my story continues, that unlike Adam and Snow White, I was seduced by not one mere taste of the forbidden fruit, but three!)
Somewhere between the apple sampling and the rushed, heavily-accented French (also organically produced in Normandy) I signed up for 100 kilos of potatoes, three types of apples and lots of dirty carrots. My insistence that we really are not tuber-eaters (a truism that has now changed forever) and that, despite being on paper a family of four, the combined weight of two of our eaters is only roughly that of a large sack of said potatoes, obliged him to concede to just 50 kilos of spuds. “Just to try them out, next year you will take 100.”
And shallots? And onions? All organic? Here I proudly held my ground. (Only to have Jan aptly point out that once you have 50 kilos of potatoes, you’re going to need a few kilos worth of onions and shallots.) Moments later, before I had any chance to convert kilos into pounds, boxes of apples, crates of carrots and sacks of potatoes were being lugged down into our cellar. The door closed behind him and I? I panicked.
If life gives you apples, carrots and potatoes, …
What in the world would we do with the (now was the time to do the conversion!) 110 pounds of potatoes, 141 pounds of apples and 62 pounds of carrots that had just taken up permanent residence in our basement? We don’t even eat potatoes! Only a few options sprang to mind:
- Get rid of everything fast, and certainly before Jan comes home. If Jan sees this… why it looks like we’re opening a restaurant down here!… (I should here note that while Jan is an immensely patient and understanding husband, this is not my first foray into bulk purchasing. About three years ago my kilo-pound miscalculations resulted in the postman delivering a 50 pound + package filled with oats imported from England to our fourth-floor walk-up apartment in Paris. The mere size of the box was impressive, especially in comparison to our apartment! So, as you can imagine my claim to not understand the metric weight system after ten years living in metric-embracing lands starts to wear thin.) Hide everything and start cooking?…How quickly could I cook it all? By 6 pm seemed difficult…
- Turn a silly misjudgment into an unlikely culinary adventure: the 180-day potato-apple-carrot challenge! (180 days being the six month “best-before” date given by the, now halfway-back to Normandy celebrating his days’ earnings and a few kilos lighter, Normand farmer)
And so, voila, “chez Maureen” was born.
Consider this a nitty-gritty survival guide for any urban dweller who has ever come into a windfall of produce: a chronicle of our attempt to cook, bake, steam, fry, sauté, soufflé, braise, barbecue, pickle and stir-fry our way through the over 300 pounds of apples, carrots and spuds in our cellar.