Though generally content, I have lately found myself battling bouts of dissatisfaction. I covet the people responsible for a “sold” sign outside my favorite Craftsman home, the piles of primary-colored leaves in the background of friends’ Instagram photos, the couple on my Facebook feed trekking blissfully across Europe. Even girls wearing bright red lipstick or ballerina buns have found themselves in the crosshairs of my jealousy (I’m looking at you, Lauren Conrad), seeing as I am unable to follow such trends without resembling a clown or a toddler.
I rarely voice such complaints, recognizing they’re both absurd and outrageously outnumbered. Things I have: parents who love and support me, siblings whose company I genuinely enjoy, in-laws I can’t wait to visit, a niece whose choppy steps and tiny shrieks I can witness weekly—albeit through a computer screen. I have a husband who makes me laugh, encourages my creativity, and does the dishes. I have an education—a lottery I won by being born in the right place, in the right decade, to the right family. I can read. I can reason. I can speak my mind. I can wear a tank top to the grocery store or a bathrobe on my front porch. I have coffee in my cup and tread on my tires and enough money in the bank to buy luxuries like maple syrup and ice cream. If someone offered to trade lives, I can’t imagine it working out in my favor.
But still. I find myself pitying the ways my life has gone off-script: the setting too far south, the plot too repetitive, the protagonist boasting neither an Emmy nor a baby nor a voyage to another continent. Instead she has student loans and adult acne and a very feeble ability to be content in all circumstances. Bravo?
It’s frustrations like these that often drive me to the kitchen, my desire for control finding a willing medium in a pile of apples or packet of yeast. There is something centering about working butter between your fingers or dough beneath your palms; as the space fills with the aroma of yeast or vanilla or cinnamon, your spirit is leavened also, rising and bubbling in time with the confection now gurgling in your oven. By the time your creation arrives at golden brown, your life also may seem warmer and more palatable. (And, if all else fails, add a scoop of ice cream. It may not solve all your problems, but—in my experience—it’s never made anything worse.)
Maple Apple Crisp
- 5-6 medium apples (about 8 cups; I used Granny Smith)
- 3 tablespoons + 3/4 cup flour, divided
- 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup brown sugar, divided
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
Peel, core, and chop the apples into 1/2-inch pieces. Place apples in a large bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, maple syrup and lemon juice. Pour into a greased 9×9 pan or other 2-quart baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350°. In a separate bowl, combine 3/4 flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or two butter knives, until pieces are a little larger than peas. Stir in rolled oats and pour on top of the apple mixture. Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes until apples are bubbling and topping shows no signs of dryness. Finally, turn your oven to broil and toast the topping until crisp and golden, 1-3 minutes. Serve with scoops of vanilla ice cream.