Does it all come down to an apple? Heaven or Hell, a place one enters or is barred from, a magical gloried destination or a endlessly torpored collection of platitudes? The apple bears quite a responsibility on its sloped perfumed shoulders in all of these musings.
Of course it may not even have been an apple that is the center of these discussions. It may have been a grape, a fig, wheat (yes, wheat!), a quince, a citron . . . and I’ve heard discussions of the apple really being a pomegranate or (my favorite) a persimmon.
Food and religion are no strangers. Rather, they are intimate partners . . . though I have the sense myself that religion reached out to food in the original pairing, rather than food reaching out to religion. Religious thoughts of all sorts seem to attach themselves easily to food, though . . . even when the religion is merely one of the newest dietary trend. The urge towards an ecstatic experience of consumption hums below the surface of many a meal . . . and on the other side of things, the high pride of self-denial rings out like tiny churchbells on a clear cloudless wintry day.
I think of poor Eve, though. What a reputation she carries! As do we all, all of us who carry the mark of the apple upon our brows. We are mother or whore, in myth – and mother or whore in the mental imaging that comes from myth. I like these lines from Swinburne. He takes no prisoners ~
Mr. Whitman’s Eve is a drunken apple-woman, indecently sprawling in the slush and gutter amid the rotten refuse of her overturned fruit-stall . . . Mr. Whitman’s Venus is a Hottentot wench under the influence of cantharides and adulterated rum.
The postcard of the bitten apple, sent in 1908, has a plea for friendship written in its lines. It is signed by ‘E.A.M’. The ‘E’ to my mind definitely stands for ‘Eve’. Here is what she wrote . . .
Hello Will: I am sorry I offended you in the way I did & I suppose I might as well “fess up” I didn’t mean a thing in the world. and you had ought to of known I didn’t : can we not be friends again at least. Rose is gone and I am housekeeper get rather lonesome at times Oak has gone to Winchester today from a friend E.A.M.
Eve, I am going to make an apple strudel. And I am going to think of you, and hope that Will did understand your plea for friendship. My thoughts of you will be layered between the light sheets of dough like feathers, tossed in with the sugar over the apple slices, buttered with brisk brush to make a shiny surface of egg and cinnamon. The aroma of warm apple strudel will fill the air, and all will seem just as if it were Paradise.