In the spring, everyone loves apple trees. Their delicate blossoms scent the warming breezes, and their pretty bright flowers foretell the growing season to come.
But in the fall, no one is very excited to have apple trees around. Once, perhaps, people actually tended the trees and carefully harvested the apples for consumption, but those days are long since past. Nobody picks the fruit anymore. Instead, the overripe apples fall to the ground, rot on the pavement, and eventually are smashed and ground into the asphalt by passing pickups and pedestrians who want to indulge their destructive impulses. And when the apples get obliterated, they coat the roadway with slime and emit an overpowering, cloying smell like applesauce gone bad, on steroids.
It’s not pleasant.
We’ve got a few of the smashed apple zones in Stonington that I pass on my morning walks. As bad as the smell is for a passerby, at least the unpleasantness is fleeting. Imagine living within one of the zones and smelling that smell constantly. It’s something for everyone to keep in mind the next time they are tempted to play Johnny Appleseed.
Recently Kish and I went to a brunch buffet. One of the heated chafing dishes held “applewood smoked bacon.” Last week when I went out to lunch, my cheeseburger was topped with “applewood smoked bacon.”
“Applewood,” “smoked,” and “bacon” have become inextricably linked. No one has plain old Oscar Mayer anymore. No, it has to be “applewood smoked bacon.” It’s become as ubiquitous on restaurant menus as quinoa and kale.
The prevalence of applewood on our menus, adding just the right smoky flavor to our favorite fatty meat, raises questions. First, why is it called “applewood” instead of just “apple”? It’s the wood from the apple tree, sure, but nobody calls the wood from the pine tree “pinewood” or the wood from the oak tree “oakwood.” “Applewood” sounds like a made-up word that was invented precisely because a focus group decided it sounded upscale and would appeal to restaurant goers.
Second, exactly how much “applewood” is there? Americans consume a lot of bacon, all of which apparently must now be smoked with “applewood.” I’m concerned that Johnny Appleseed’s hard work is being chopped down and our national strategic reserve of apple trees is being devastated by our ravenous demand for “applewood.” This is another good reason to support the efforts of “Emily Appleseed.”
I’m as big a fan of bacon as anyone, but I’d like to save a few apple trees for the next generation. I’d be perfectly fine if my next rasher were smoked with “cherrywood,” or “peachwood,” or even “orangewood.” Heck, I’d even make the ultimate sacrifice and settle for sowbelly in its plain, unadorned state.