Apple pie memories

A Rosh Hashana wish to a family.

apple pie 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
apple pie 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It’s that time of the year again – to bring out my famous apple pie recipe and prepare a couple of pies for the New Year. There’s something about the rolling out of the dough, the peeling and slicing of the apples, the grating of the oranges and lemons, the scent of the cinnamon that puts me in a contemplative mood.
As I work contentedly at the kitchen table, my mind invariably strays to Susan and Kevin, since it was she who gave me the recipe over 40 years ago. It has been more than 20 years since we last saw them, but they remain vividly etched in my mind.
She had grown up, an orphan, raised by a kindly Jewish spinster who loved Susan like her own child. They were traditional, as many Liverpool Jews were in those days, keeping kosher, often taking the bus to synagogue in the morning and going on Saturday afternoon to a football match or to ‘town’ for shopping.
I can’t remember what she did – possibly something secretarial, which in those days meant good shorthand and typing. He was a medical student and the son of a Jewish mother and a gentile father.
He went to synagogue and tried to live a Jewish life as halachically he was Jewish. He attended a magnificent historic synagogue.
But the people who ran it – the shamash and other functionaries – treated him badly and refused to allow him to be counted in a minyan.
“You’re a goy, you don’t count,” he was told.
As every child knows, a person with a Jewish mother is a Jew. The people who treated Kevin so cruelly were not just wicked, but ignorant.
He and Susan married when he finished his medical studies, in a synagogue, but he was so bitter and scarred by the experience of growing up rejected by his religion that when their two sons were born, neither had a circumcision.
Soon after he had finished his medical internships, the couple emigrated to Canada and we lost touch. I still made the apple pie at Rosh Hashana, and often during the year, to great critical acclaim.
Many years later, after a year spent on sabbatical in Toronto, we took our two pre-teen boys on a coast-to-coast trip and found ourselves in Vancouver.
“Let’s look up the Johnsons,” said my husband enthusiastically.
From medical journals, he knew that Kevin had become a successful radiologist and we easily found their phone number.
Susan was delighted to hear from us and immediately invited us for lunch on the same day. Kevin came home from work and we had a heartwarming reunion. The two sons, now college-age, were both away at university.
She made a marvelous dairy meal – she knew her Judaism well and that we would not eat meat. She was still a great cook and everything was perfect. I asked her if she remembered the apple pie. She only vaguely recalled that particular recipe; she had used so many others since then.
They lived in a beautiful house in the suburbs and she ran an antique shop, more for fun than for profit, since Kevin was a successful consultant.
We spent a wonderful afternoon reminiscing about when we had all been young in Liverpool. When I left, she thrust a paper bag into my hands. I opened it as our car pulled away and saw she had given me a lovely Victorian lace runner I had admired. We wrote when we returned to Israel, and then lost touch again.
All this happened more than 20 years ago. No doubt the two sons are fine professional men with families and children. Not Jewish families though. Only more Jews lost to us because of the narrow-mindedness and stupidity of the people who run our religion. When will they ever stop driving people away from Judaism? I still make the apple pie the same way, 40 years on, and it’s still one of the things I do best.
Thank you, Susan, and a sweet New Year, to you and Kevin – and all your family.