Actually, let me amend that statement: It's been several years since I've had consistently good apples. I don't recall exactly when it was, but I started noticing that the quality of the apples at my local grocery store was declining—the apples I bought didn't taste like much of anything, or else they tasted more like the tree than its fruit. Prior to that, I remember a vibrant array of flavors: Macintosh, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Macoun, Pacific Rose, Winesap...even in an off-year when crops weren't doing as well, the taste of each variety was distinct and dependable. I figured my local grocery store had started buying its fruit from somewhere else, or was getting it shipped in too early or too late in the season. Surely an entire category of fruit couldn't suddenly lose its appeal.
I soon discovered my local grocery store wasn't unique in this regard: every major chain I went to was selling disappointing apples. Stop & Shop, ShopRite, Pathmark, Shaw's, Target, Walmart, Weis, Aldi...perhaps a fancy-pants Whole Foods or Wegmans somewhere had stolen all the good fruit? Even the smaller farm markets and corner stores I visited were hit-or-miss with their apples. In a matter of months, apples had gone from a diverse and reliable treat to a decent alternative to bananas, I guess. Tolerable apples were common, good apples were few and far between, and great apples were incredibly rare. The texture was basically the same as always, but now the flavor was lacking. It was heartbreaking.
I was in Cortland, New York recently, the birthplace of Cortland apples. I've got many almost-favorite apples, but Cortland is decisively my favorite: a perfect balance of crispness and softness, a lovely bright white interior, and delightfully sweet. I'd hardly seen a Cortland in the last few years, let alone had a good one; of course I was going to stock up at the local farm we spotted. And you know what? The apples were good. Certainly above average. But...not the same as I remembered them. If it weren't for the sign on the table, I wouldn't have guessed what type they were, before or after eating them. I couldn't even recognize my favorite apple.
Kinda sounds like all my other favorite fandoms, doesn't it? I barely recognize Metroid, Star Trek, Mega Man, etc. as such in their latest incarnations, and now I don't even know what my favorite apple is like.
Fortunately, this story has an unequivocally happy ending. A week later, I was at a small farm stand elsewhere that was selling apples. Cortland apples. And these ones looked like the real deal. And so they were. A perfect balance of crispness and softness, a lovely bright white interior, and delightfully sweet. Almost as though I'd plucked them from the tree where they grew in my memory, where I could still distinguish between different types of apples without the aid of a sign. This wasn't some nostalgia kick; this was the world remembering with me that apples aren't all supposed to taste like leaves and twigs.
And I'll be darned if every single Cortland in the basket didn't taste equally superb. Maybe there's hope for the fruiture after all.