To me it’s a crude word. A surface word. A word that isn’t usually used when talking about someone with whom you have an actual relationship.
Instead, obsessed is used when talking about that favorite musician you’ll never meet. Or the relationship between a teenage girl and her vampire boyfriend that you saw in that movie that time. Or that chef who has those restaurants and also puts out a downright amazing magazine. Or the house three streets over with a price tag your paycheck will never allow you to consider. Or that couple who got married in a very famous church in a very famous city while millions of people watched on television.
Obsessed works for the above. But it does not work for apples.
My relationship with apples is not an obsession. It is a love affair so real and so deep that I often ask myself if I could ever love apples enough. Can I? I cannot.
Sure, my relationship with apples was strictly casual at first. But as the years went on and I tasted new varieties, I began to realize that there’s a difference between eating an apple and eating an apple. I fall into the latter camp.
Eating an apple means thinking. About the apples you’ve had before. About the mix of sweet and tart washing over your tongue. About the snap of the skin and the crunch of the flesh. Eating an apple - especially a heritage apple - means being thankful that someone is putting the work into making sure our oldest varieties stick around and that the world of apples doesn’t shrink to just Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious.
I have met a woman who is doing this work.
She is 70 years old.
She lives alone.
She has an orchard of heritage and heirloom apples.
She drives a tractor and runs the chainsaw.
She hauls her apples to the Market weekly.
She understands her apples with such intimacy one might think they are her children.
For anyone who knows apples, she is a saint.
She’s certainly mine!
The first time I met Susan Christopherson I was nervous. It was summer. The apples weren’t even close to being ready. She invited me in to her kitchen where we shared a pot of tea and ate slices of salted French butter on bread. (I knew when I saw her using a cheese plane to slice the butter that she was someone special.) To put it plainly, she’s magic. I am under her spell.
She explained to me her history - she wasn’t always an apple farmer - and described to me her favorite apples. As she was talking I found myself in complete awe of her. Here’s this woman, running an apple farm on her own at 70 years old. I basically decided then and there that I want to be Susan Christopherson when I grow up.
Thanks to Susan I have a world of apples at my fingertips. We’re baking Alkmene apples in to pies at work. We made buckets of sauce for the school with treasured Pink Pearls. I’ve been eating Elstars at a rate of 3 a day. And these are just early season apples. Wolf River will be coming in soon. And then Cox’s Orange Pippin and Roxbury Russet.
My apple universe will never be the same.
Here’s your chance to meet Susan - Oregon Public Broadcasting visited her farm and filed this report. I’ll warn you now, you are going to fall in love with her. And I’m not talking about something as simple as an obsession.