My grandmother was the cook: the sort of woman who could turn out a hot meal for twenty people and think it was nothing special. My grandfather stayed out of the kitchen, and it remained that way for more than twenty years.
Then my grandmother decided to visit one of her daughters, who was studying in New Zealand at the time; and so my grandfather had to learn to cook. He asked my grandmother to teach him. But she was slapdash; she never quite followed a recipe, which drove my analytical grandfather – a lecturer in chemistry – quite mad. He shadowed her in the kitchen for weeks before her holiday, grabbing her wrist each time she went to throw a dash of this or that into the pot, and writing down precise recipes, noting the exact weight of each dash or dollop.
After she left, he moved into the kitchen. He brought home scales and Bunsen burners from the lab so he could measure the dashes and regulate the temperatures properly; and he hung his starched white lab coat behind the door.
One evening, my uncle came home from uni to find his father in the kitchen, wearing lab coat and safety goggles. Pots bubbled away over Bunsen burners, and his father was coring apples with an electric drill. They were having baked apples for dessert.
Everyone knows how to bake an apple, I'm sure, but I absolutely had to tell the story.
- 1 apple per person
Preheat the oven to 180. If the dried fruit is very dry, soak it in hot water for ten minutes.
Core the apples, electric drill optional. Run a knife lightly around the circumference of each apple, just slitting the skin, so that when it expands in the oven it puffs up along the centre ring and doesn't explode all over the place.
Butter the base of an oven dish. Place the apples into it, and stuff the cores with dried fruit. Press a knob of butter into the top of each apple, and sprinkle with cinnamon or cloves. Drizzle with a little honey and lemon juice. Pour a few tablespoons of water into the bottom of the dish.
Bake for an hour. Serve drizzled with juices from the dish, either plain or with cream or ice cream; or both if you're my grandpa.
(Local: apples, honey, lemon. Not local: butter, dried fruit.)