When our son, David, was small -- actually from the time he was almost a year old -- until only a few years ago, we would bundle up on an Indian summer day and go in search of pumpkins for Halloween and a tree to tag for Christmas-time cutting.
We would start the day at a local farm, taking the hayride to the pumpkin field, picking out a pumpkin, getting lost in the corn maze and feeding all the baby animals.
After replenishing our energy with fresh apple cider and doughnuts, we would pack up our pumpkins and head to the tree farm in search of the perfect tree for Christmas.
My husband had a few rules he enforced -- or tried to -- when we went tree hunting. They included:
* I had to able to touch the top of the tree. "Anything taller and it won't fit in the living room," Guy would say.
* Do not tag a tree that is more than 10 rows in either direction from the center of the parking area and no more than 15 trees back from the parking area. "They are all easy to get to now, but I'm not dragging a tree that far with a foot of snow on the ground."
Another fall day was spent visiting the fish hatchery in Benn ing ton, Vt., and then going apple picking.
The fish hatchery was, and probably still is, a wonderful, inexpensive way to keep a child entertained. We would bring a roll of nickels and a plastic cup, to buy and carry fish food, and David was off and running -- literally -- feeding fish ranging from the size of his finger on up to trophy-size beauties. I have to admit that even Guy and I got a kick out of seeing the fish flock to the food we threw.
After running out of nickels, we would head to the orchard to pick apples. The problem with that was we didn't know when to stop and usually ended up with way too many apples.
Many, many years ago, in my capacity as the food page editor, I issued a plea for readers to submit their favorite recipes using apples. Before you get out a pen and paper, let me state: I will never, ever do that again.
I had recipes for cakes, cookies, pies galore, breads, muffins, steamed apples, baked apples, broiled apples. It took me three weekly food pages to print them all.
I was lamenting my fate to my parents, hoping for some sympathy.
"I even got one for something that sounds really weird ..." I sighed.
Dad looked at me and said in a hopeful tone of voice, "Bird's Nest?"
I couldn't believe it. Out of all the apple recipes he could have picked, he knew what one I was referring to? No, it turned out, his grandmother had made it for him when he was a child and Mom could never find a recipe for it.
Bird's Nest is a baked apple pudding that is served with a so-called sour sauce made with vinegar. It's easy to put together and is really good, whether or not you serve it with the sauce. It's also good warm and topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
from Laura Scarbeau
6 to 8 tart apples
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
9-inch pan or 2 quart pan, greased
Slice apples in pan and sprinkle on 1/2 cup or less of sugar and spices, and dot with 1 tablespoon butter.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.
Cream 2 tablespoons butter with 1/2 cup sugar and beat in egg. Add the dry ingredients with the 1/2 cup milk. Spread over the apples in the pan.
Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
2 cups boiling water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour (or 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch for a thicker sauce)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (lemon juice may be substituted)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
Mix sugar, flour (or cornstarch), nutmeg and salt in sauce pan. Add water and stir until blended. Add butter and boil 5 minutes, remove from heat and add vinegar. Serve over the Bird's Nest.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.