By MATT POTTER
CATHOLIC STEWARDSHIP AND ABUNDANCE
When I was a boy growing up in Wisconsin, my mother would make this incredible dessert that she called apple slices. The goodness of this delectable treat took on mythic proportions as I grew older and further from their origin and existence.
My memories of these bits of nirvana are laced with images of Mom’s bridge club, a group of women who would show up at our house a couple of times a year to play cards. They played weekly but moved their game to different houses each time. There would be three or four tables of ladies with bouffant hairdos held together with gallons of hairspray. They were all very friendly, but the irresistible temptation of all these mothers and grandmothers to pinch the cheeks of a 6-year-old boy was too much for them; so I made myself scarce as soon as they started arriving.
What made the rare appearances of the ladies so exciting was the inevitability of Mom making apple slices to offer them when they took a break from their game to have coffee and dessert. Sometime during the morning of that evening’s card party, the apples would come out on the kitchen table to be peeled, cored and sliced. They were then placed in a large bowl and stirred into a magical combination of eggs, sugar and cinnamon. That mixture was then sandwiched between pie crust-like layers in a jelly roll pan and baked to golden brown perfection.
Except for the edges. The edges always burned a bit as the juice from the apples migrated out and created a darker, crusty, crunchy piece that still held the sweet taste of the apples.
After cooking and cooling came the pièce de résistance – powdered sugar frosting covered the top layer of crust, creating a treat that was like no other to be found on earth. I would then stand in the kitchen and watch Mom in the final phase of preparing this heavenly pastry as she grabbed a sharp knife and surgically separated the burned edges from the perfection in the middle, cutting that portion into squares appropriately sized for the genteel ladies who would be joining us that evening.
I never held those perfect middle slices in my hands, though. They were placed on a serving platter that I was forbidden to touch at the risk of severe punishment. While the perfect squares were placed under protective custody, those burned edges were transferred to a plate for the benefit and consumption of my sisters and me. I don’t believe I ever had a middle slice all the time I was growing up.
I was OK with that. The Bridge Club ladies were my Mom’s friends, and Bridge Club was important to her. She made apple slices and a couple of other desserts for them. She put a freshly ironed table cloth on the dining room table and covered it with the china and crystal that only came out a few times a year. She spent a couple days beforehand cleaning the house and washing off the card tables and chairs that would be used. The night of the party she would turn on all the lights, put on her best clothes, and welcome her guests into our home to share her first fruits.
She gave her guests the best she had. They did not get the crusty edges. We got those, and they were wonderful. We never felt shortchanged, either. Her intention was not to treat us as less but to treat others as more.
The lesson that I learned from Mom’s apple slices is that everything we have is meant to be shared. When we give freely of our best, it transforms us from one who comes from a place of scarcity to one who comes from a place of abundance. If we have the former mentality, we hold all things close to us with a tight grip, sharing only what we must. When we share from our abundance, we show our trust in God in that He will never shortchange us. We can never match God’s generosity.
My sister-in-law Sharon gave me Mom’s recipe for apple slices. I think I will make them soon. My co-workers in the Catholic Center will be the beneficiaries. I am looking forward to the burnt edges.
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