Sunday, September 15, 2013

Celebrating the Empire Apple

If you are over the age of 47 then you, my dear visitor, are older than one of New York State's most famous Apples; the Empire! Why is this important? Well, it isn't really but you know me:) And, after all, The Big Apple has an orchard full of apple history. Here are a few timeline highlights.

History of the Apple in New York State
Governor Peter Stuyvesant plants an apple tree from Holland on the corner of Third Avenue and 13th Street in New York City.
Colonists grow apples to produce cider, vinegar and hard cider which is used as currency.
Colonists hold apple bees to prepare apples for drying.
America's first commercial apple tree nursery established in Oyster Bay, Long Island.
The first commercial trade of apples from the U.S. begins on Long Island, with apples being exported to the West Indies.
Newtown Pippins first grown on Long Island are sent to Benjamin Franklin in London.

Before we get to the history of the Empire Apple, which begins at the present day Cornell University in Geneva, New York, let's grab a muffin! Not just any muffin mind you. The Official New York State Apple Muffin!

While I was preparing this post, I began to wonder whether New York City's nickname; The Big Apple had anything to do with New York's long history of apple pickins. It doesn't. If not, then why? Why is New York City called The Big Apple? Perhaps the folks at Princeton University have a clue.

...Although the history of the Big Apple was once thought a mystery, research over the past two decades, primarily by amateur etymologist Barry Popik and Gerald Cohen of Missouri University of Science and Technology, has provided a reasonably clear picture of the term's history...The earliest citation for "big apple" is the 1909 book The Wayfarer in New York,by Edward Martin, writing: "Kansas is apt to see in New York a greedy city...It inclines to think that the big apple gets a disproportionate share of the national sap..."

If you get a chance, pop on over to the free book link. As a native of New York, I found The Wayfarer in New York's historical prospective quite enlightening:) I even downloaded the book so I can read it when I get a chance.

I have visited Mr. Popik's website many time through the years. If he disagrees with the coinage of this usage as a "concrete example" of the "birth" of New York City's nickname, then who am I to argue.

Barry Popik is a contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary, Dictionary of American Regional English, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Yale Book of Quotations and Dictionary of Modern Proverbs. Since 1990 he has also been a regular contributor to Gerald Cohen's Comments on Etymology. He is recognized as an expert on the origins of the terms Big Apple, Windy City, hot dog, and many other food terms, and he is an editor of the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. He has over 7,000 archived posts (from 1996-2007) of commentary on Americanisms to the American Dialect Society. His website, The Big Apple, began in New York City in 2004.

He also happens to have a first hand "witness" by the name of Joe Zito to disparage any further tales.

Why Do They Call it the Big Apple?

In the early 1930s I got my first job as a rewrite man and a copy reader for the Morning Telegraph. The Telegraph at that time was situated on West 24th Street, and the site is now part of the parking lot of the huge Penn South complex.

John J. Fitz Gerald—we called him Jack—was the feature writer for the paper, and he covered the races in New York State. At that time, in addition to Belmont Park and Aqueduct, there was Jamaica Race Track, the Empire City Track up in Yonkers [now Yonkers Raceway], and of course Saratoga.

Jack was the first writer to use the term "The Big Apple" in print, maybe ten years before I started at the paper—in fact, he called his regular column "Around the Big Apple." He told us that he had heard it from the Black stable boys who followed the horses to the small quarter-mile tracks in New Orleans and all over the East and the Middle West.
They were so glad now to come to New York, where the big money was. The city was so huge to them and so full of opportunity that they called it the "Big Apple."

As a matter of fact, in recognition of John J. Fitz Gerald, the corner of 54th & Broadway, where Fitz Gerald lived for 30 years, was "christened" "Big Apple Corner" by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1997. (Mr. Popik is said to be instrumental in having this accomplished)

In the Mayor's press release, we uncover another clue to the mystery.

"A decade later many jazz musicians began calling the City "The Big Apple" to refer to New York City (especially Harlem) as the jazz capital of the world. Soon the nickname became synonymous with New York City and its cultural diversity. In the early 1970's the name played an important role in reviving New York's tourist economy through a campaign led by the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau. Today the nickname "The Big Apple," which replaced "Fun City," is the international description of our city and is synonymous with the cultural and tourist attractions of New York City."

So there you have it. With a nudge from The Big Easy and the tireless promotions by Charles Gillett of Great Neck, New York, also Creator Of the 'Big Apple' Ad Campaign in the 1970s, the Empire State continues to have a glistening star in the Big Apple.

The Empire Apple

Question: What do you get when you cross pollinate a Red Delicious Apple?

With a McIntosh Apple?

Answer: The Empire Apple! The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York introduced the new variety on September 15, 1966. (47 years ago today:)

What's It Like?
A wonderful blend of sweet and tart
Very crisp, creamy white flesh
Best Uses
Excellent for eating and salads
Good for sauce, baking, pies and freezing
Special Hint
Small Empires are great for school lunches. Kids love Empire's sweet-tart taste and super crunchy texture.
September through August

I think it's time for another Apple recipe, don't you? Here's a recipe for Apple Sour Cream Coffee Cake courtesy of the Best of the Best from New York Cookbook published by Quail Ridge Press in 2001.

Just in case none of the above recipes are a-peeling, here's a recipe for Happy Rockefeller's New York State Flat Apple Pie harvested from Habilitat's Celebrity Cookbook published in 1978.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit today. I do have one more scroggling of info brought to you by The New York Historical Society. Thankfully, it's very short and you can watch it. The title is How Did New York [State] Get Its Famous Nickname? (as in Empire State:)

On a personal note, thank you all for your heart felt inquiries for my lack of posting this past Wednesday. Marion and I had a most unusual and trying few days last week. Without going into detail, suffice to say it included providing shelter for a mother and her two children while the local women's shelter found them a safe haven. We are not in the habit of doing this and I must tell you, as a volunteer at the shelter, it is not something I would recommend to those faint of heart. We did it because we had to. However, it can be very dangerous and we will not be doing it again any time soon. I thank you for your emails and I am happy to say my absence had nothing to do with Michele. As a matter of fact, Michele will be getting her last, as in final, chemo treatment this Tuesday. As you can imagine, we are cautiously elated:) Louise

P.S. Today also kicks off National Hispanic Heritage Month which runs from September 15th through October 15th each year.

"September 15th was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. They all declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively."
If you will be celebrating on your blog, I would love to know. I'm thinking about doing a quick recipe round-up in the middle of October. It would be extra special if you would include a bit of history with your recipe:)