I can so vividly remember, sitting at the long, plastic-covered table at my grandparents house, watching in awe as my Italian Pop Pop, or my Dad's father, used to take what looked to me like a Samurai sword and ever so slowly peel an apple in one long, curling strip. He would then cut one piece at a time, spear it with tip of his sword and offer the juicy slice to us kids like a regal gift. For years, I could never bite into a whole apple, waiting instead for someone to peel it for me...and then when nobody did, inevitably taking up arms myself. Looking back I suppose that also had to do with the tin smile I was sporting at the time. On my own though, I would try and try to peel the entire fruit in one long swirl as he had, most often without luck. The memory still lives with me so much so that peeling an apple was, and will always remain, a ritual for me, never a task.
Nowadays, when I visit my parents, if I am lucky, I can sometimes catch them in the process of making homemade applesauce. With the quantity of fruit my mom needs, my father does not resort to conventional means. Instead of a sword or knife, he uses an old-fashioned rotary peeler with a crank handle. When after, bushels of apples and millions of cranks, the machine broke a while back, my dad, the mechanic, chose to repair it instead of buying a new one. This process, while not the same as Pop Pop's, still has a special place in my heart. My parents bicker and squabble about the amount and the quantity of each type of apple, and pretty much anything else that comes to mind, but never about the machine. To watch my dad place the apple on the pin and crank through, I could swear he plays the same game I do in trying to get the whole fruit peeled in one go round.
Since it's apple season again, and I am itching to go to the orchard, I thought I'd try to find the proper tools to attack the bounty I am sure to bring home. Of the peelers out there, the Progressive International version...not shown...is the one most like my parents. However, unless you are working on a table, the clamp won't be of much use. For the counter top, or any smooth surface, the suction cup base on the peeler and corer from Back to Basics, see above, is a solid bet. Made from cast iron, it's really sturdy and durable.
And for those of you who wish to delight in the quest of the single swirling peel, Wusthof makes a bird beak peeler. It a paring knife that is tapered into a scythe-like point that looks like...a bird beak. It conforms well to curved surfaces, making it easier to peel fruit and potatoes. The drama of my Pop Pop's knife ritual, however, will never be duplicated.
Back to Basics Apple and Potato Peeler; $26; focuselectrics.com
Wusthof Classic Ikon Bird Beak Peeling Knife; $70; chefscatalog.com
Gina Provenzano has worn many hats, including that of a stylist, producer, writer, and editor. With experience both on staff at national consumer magazines such as Bon Appetit and Family Circle and as a freelance contributor for independent companies, Gina is recognized as an industry expert in entertaining, kitchens, tabletop design, and home decorating. In addition to print and Internet media, Gina has appeared on many national and regional programs, including Weekend Today, Today in New York, and Fox News, and on CNN, Fox, WCBS, and Lifetime Networks.
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