Saturday, May 8, 2021


Core Remembrances

It lay forlorn for months and sometimes years in the white metal drawer under the kitchen sink.  It was there when I reached the age of reason.  It was there when my parents decided to decamp to a rental unit across the street 20 years later, their dreams of even modest security buried under an avalanche of late or unpaid bills -- gas, water, electricity, mortgage, remortgage.

Some paint was worn from the red wooden handle; forensic analysis would have shown the palm prints of my dad on it as well as of my mum, and also my own. The connection between handle and blade, it should be said, was a little wobbly.

It could be dangerous in the hands of a child.  Even then I had seen the World War II movies in which the last Japanese soldier on Saipan disembowels himself with his ceremonial sword (discreetly in those days it's true), his rathole surrounded by GIs with flame throwers and grenades.  The apple corer would have done just as well, and perhaps some lurid Japanese blood would have filled in the spots where the paint had chafed off.

The curve of the blade was so tight that it was impossible for my dad to sharpen it with his carpenter's whetstone.  A file was needed.  Perhaps there was one.

The tricky part was the very first part -- driving the blade through the apple from stem to bottom in such a way that only the unpalatable core would be detached after the blade was twisted to make a circle.  This was usually an aspiration; some trimming would be needed after the apple had been quartered.

On the outside of the blade a parer.  On one of her good days, which came fewer and fewer, mum might have peeled a perfect, continuous curlicue of skin from the apple.  The curlicue of skin would find its way not into a garbage disposal, but into a garbage pail which a lowly workman would dump into a special-purpose truck with all of the neighborhood's other vegetable scraps and offal.  It would be driven not very far, and a pig being fattened for slaughter would have the curlicue as part of his lunch.

The apple pieces of course dusted with sugar and salt and flour and cinnamon and nutmeg, later to bubble under a crust that was one of the best of my mum's kitchen creations.

But then, after a period of years, the balance shifted, as it will.  "How could I even think about baking a pie, with the heavy burden that I bear?"  This in transition.  After that she indeed never again thought about baking a pie.

And so the corer lay forlorn entirely until it was discarded, along with nearly everything else.

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