Indignity Vol. 2, No. 8: How do you like these?
Apples Are Like Cigarettes: An Interview With Fruit Reviewer Mary H.K. Choi
MARY H.K. CHOI was a journalist and essayist when I first met her, when we were both contributors to The Awl. Now she is an official New York Times bestselling novelist, whose third book, Yolk, came out in hardcover last year and will be released in paperback March 1.
On Instagram Stories, meanwhile, she reviews apples—one a day, mostly, in highly compressed and wildly energetic terms. In text over photographs of each fruit, her detailed and precise tasting notes (a Pink Lady: "Medium thick skin with cut-grass notes and a good bite") collide with bits of unreserved subjectivity (a pink-fleshed Lucy Glo: "a little unnerving and wound-like to eat out of hand") which collide with fragments of pomology, cultural history, and memoir. Apples evoke pity, awe, and despair; she gets angry at apples for being so bad (a Kiku: "Claggy. One-note, flat sweet. Juicy but for what") and for being so good (a Kanzi smuggled from Switzerland: "It tastes like how tomatoes taste in Italy. Rude. 10/10 this is ruining my life"). Via text chat, we talked about it.
INDIGNITY: You have been reviewing apples on Instagram, by eating them and taking pictures and assigning them scores and comments. I was excited to see this, because I find apples to be a very difficult fruit. So I wanted to ask you: how do you evaluate apples?
MARY H.K. CHOI: Apples are hilariously divisive! And I evaluate them by making outlandish proclamations on the merits of each kind and then contradicting myself. It’s really great and really dumb, which is the perfect rubric by which to review something daily and to dedicate this much mental real estate to.
They’re apples! I can’t imagine a fruit that a regular human is less curious about. Which is wild because there’s actually so much here in terms of pomological history and how so many people used to have orchards and how there are zillions of different kinds.
INDIGNITY: Apples have always mystified me. I like most fruits on their own terms, and everyone is supposed to like apples, but someone presents me with a nice tart Granny Smith and I’m like, this hurts my mouth.
MARY H.K. CHOI: Well, Granny Smiths are the worst. Those and Red Delicious just feel like mean tricks to play on people. If I were the emperor of apples I would outlaw them. Especially wrapped in plastic at airport snack vendors.
That's the part that's so perplexing, how ubiquitous the worst apples are. Apples aren't like bananas where generally speaking the thing that takes up the shape and space of that particular thing is a passable version of it. Apples are fickle. Bananas are like dogs and apples are cats for sure.
Here’s the thing about apples: they work. As snacks go, they’re engaging, they require some focus, they occupy your hands so you can’t doomscroll and they stay with you.
INDIGNITY: It just feels like it’s designed to confuse you. First they give you the Red Delicious, which was sort of the default apple when I was a child, and which is universally understood to be terrible, but then they show you the sophisticated apples and those are often unfriendly. What’s a good friendly apple?
MARY H.K. CHOI: YES. Sophisticated apples can be unfriendly. Or else in my case they engender a great deal of resentment because they can be extortionately priced and inconsistent which is also just so fucking mean.
Not to make you feel hideously old but I wonder if the default apple now is the Fuji for youngs of a certain age
INDIGNITY: It might be; how do you feel about the Fuji?
MARY H.K. CHOI: WELL.
They were wonderful back in the halcyon days when all we had to compare them to were Macintoshs and the Deliciouses. And I always felt that they were suggestive of a fundamental truth in that Asian excellence is really not to be fucked with.
But then I got really sore and felt taken advantage of and strongly disliked them for a while because they were expensive, and then the skins got tougher and grittier and the apples themselves got monstrously GMO-big. BUT recently I’ve come around. [Ed. note, from one of her Fuji reviews: "Holy shit. I actually went and fished the sticker out of the trash to see who is responsible for this apple...Shockingly good...10/10"]
Going back to your original question of what’s a good friendly apple I would say a solid starter apple is a Fuji or a Honeycrisp.
But I say this with MASSIVE asterisks against both. Honeycrisps are the new Fujis in terms of how much Big Apple manipulated the market to where Honeycrisps are so expensive now and make me grumpy because they have a beautiful bursty toothsome texture that snaps when you bite into it but they can be horribly watery as well. Ahahhaha that wasn’t a sentence.
INDIGNITY: It feels like there are a lot of asterisks in the apple orchard—the varieties seem like they should tell you what you’re getting, but there’s also how each one was raised, but also how each one was handled, but also just the perversity of the individual fruit? How do you figure out what to blame or what to praise about an apple when you find a notable one? How do you replicate success or avoid failure?
MARY H.K. CHOI: You surrender the results. Completely. This is what I’m learning. I would say that the most consistent apple across the board is the Pink Lady. But a Pink Lady is a tougher chew, a hardier fruit with a thicker skin and a tart hit at the top which isn’t everyone’s favorite.
All the trends for apples globally go for huge sweetness. Any apple with a promotions budget hitting the market is massively sweet.
But I’m also learning that apple seasons matter. And as with anything, eating seasonally will always be a superior flavor and texture experience.
Baking apples are not fake news. These fuckers are mealy as hell and better suited for pies and sauces because they’re sort of already halfway there, but they’re also largely heirloom varieties which carry a deeper, more complex apple flavor.
Galas are so sometimey—it doesn’t depend on the vendor or the season, they just toy with your emotions and the one excellent one will haunt you across a half dozen shit ones.
Opals phenotypically mimic really horrible apples but they’re fantastic. Thin skinned and succulent.
INDIGNITY: We ate some Golden Deliciouses right off the tree this fall and they were fantastic.
MARY H.K. CHOI: YES. I had one recently that was terrific and such a morale booster because it fills me with true joy to take an apple off the shit list and put it back on the suspense list.
But I guess that’s the thing. Apples are a gamble. Some of them are from LAST YEAR.
INDIGNITY: What? Last year meaning four weeks ago, or—?
MARY H.K. CHOI: Ahahahah no I mean from ages and ages ago. They’re treated with an ethylene blocker and kept in cold storage for up to ten months or something. And you can tell when you bite into them because you can almost hear the little gasp. You just know that you’re eating a corpse even though it looks fine on the outside. It’s like Melisandre the red witch lady from GoT.
INDIGNITY: How often do you run into one of these lich-apples? You’re eating them daily, right?
MARY H.K. CHOI: I’ve only had them a few times, maybe twice. I’m usually that maniac at the greengrocer’s giving every apple a little fondle. But I think it’s fascinating the way the market treats them like a commodity. It’s like an apple unit is worth something.
INDIGNITY: I was about to say, your apple reviews encourage me to try apples generally but these nuts and bolts are scaring me off.
MARY H.K. CHOI: I wouldn’t start eating apples if you don’t like them, because they’re mercurial and heartbreaking. But I adore them and love them as a little food unit because they’re incredibly reassuring. They deliver a level of satiety that is really consistent to me.
INDIGNITY: What was the most infuriating apple you’ve had lately? There was one I think you described as “deadass like eating a fist-sized water chestnut.”
MARY H.K. CHOI: That might have been a Kiku. I got them mixed up with Kanzis in my head. And these things will happen.
But honestly if you already like apples I’d say having them around would be a tonic.
INDIGNITY: So they’re simultaneously reassuring for you and capricious. I guess we’re back to cats again.
MARY H.K. CHOI: YES EXACTLY. Also not to project but I think it nicely summarizes how a lot of people who know us would describe us.
INDIGNITY: It just feels like we’re indoctrinated to believe they’re going to be like dogs—Johnny Appleseed building a new country out of a friendly fruit for everyone to enjoy. Then you find out he was planting trees for the cider industry.
MARY H.K. CHOI: Apples are as big a scam as America. Conceptually. Apples are late-stage capitalism. Apples are "freedom."
INDIGNITY: These things also bruise easily.
MARY H.K. CHOI: Agreed.
INDIGNITY: And make the fruits around them go bad if you’re not careful.
MARY H.K. CHOI: This is one of my favorite things about apples. What little terrors! Just pushing bananas around and giving avocados a shove.
But apples are great when we’re not foisting all this other stuff onto them. I feel like apples and tampons should be free. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
INDIGNITY: One federal website for both.
MARY H.K. CHOI: Yes. Powered by Squarespace.
They remind me of smoking analog cigarettes. It’s a nice built-in pause. That’s why I eat them in-hand and away from screens.
Here’s the thing about apples: they work. As snacks go, they’re engaging, they require some focus, they occupy your hands so you can’t doomscroll and they stay with you. Unless you have a fructose allergy in which case you can just chuck it straight into the loo.
They remind me of smoking analog cigarettes. It's a nice built-in pause. That’s why I eat them in-hand and away from screens.
INDIGNITY: If I ever go back to an office maybe I’ll take apple breaks.
MARY H.K. CHOI: OMG YES. This would be my dream.
INDIGNITY: Go lean on the side of the building. Throw the cores by the curb.
MARY H.K. CHOI: Yes! Accidentally clip a passerby. Flip them the bird. Go back in with a heightened sense of camaraderie. Although I don’t know if I’d ever want to watch just ANYBODY eat an apple. They’d have to be a non-gross eater.
INDIGNITY: You don’t want strangers bumming apples off you outside a club.
MARY H.K. CHOI: EW VOM. Also apples are not a sharing food. You can’t bust someone down on an apple. That’s revolting. Also lol, I’ll buy an apple off you for five bucks. Clove apples.
INDIGNITY: Only as cut fruit.
MARY H.K. CHOI: Boo to cut fruit.
INDIGNITY: Even just-cut fruit?
MARY H.K. CHOI: Actually what I’m realizing is that I don’t like sharing fruit. I want to eat an entire mango all by myself both sides and scrape off the seed. And I'm a New Yorker so watermelon comes in a plastic domed bowl.
INDIGNITY: Wow, no, I’m a monkey looking to divvy it all up with the troop.
MARY H.K. CHOI: You’re a family person though. With smalls.
But don’t you have moments where you eat fruit and are just like WOW this is pretty good, this being alive and eating fruit business. Like who decided? It’s so good. And then it’s good for you? That’s crazy.
INDIGNITY: More often with papaya than with apple.
MARY H.K. CHOI: Yeah papaya is good. But papaya is papaya. Apples might be the inflight movie of fruit. But that’s the unit of fruit I want every day without having to think about it.
Which is to say I might have ruined apples for myself.
INDIGNITY: And yet you think about it, often to the point of rage, yes.
MARY H.K. CHOI: Good thing I did this interview.
Yeah I think maybe that’s what this whole thing is about. If you like something maybe don't review it.
But also don't worry it's like the Scarlet Shoes, I won't stop. I CAN'T STOP.
INDIGNITY: Thank you!
QUIZ DEP’T., BY JOE MACLEOD
Apple Investor Shareholder Vote Quiz
I HAZ STOCK in Apple computer (AAPL on the NASDAC) stock because my brother bought me one share as a birthday present in, like, the ’90s, maybe? I can’t remember, it was just a goofy suitable-for-framing sort of “gag gift” and I put it in a drawer and forgot about it, and now I have like 17 shares because it split a few times and so now I’m a big-deal stock investor! I get a dividend check from the Apple every few months for $0.22 per share (Twenty-Two Cents and No Dollars) for doing absolutely nothing except sitting on my ass and owning the stupid stock.
And, once a year, Annually, even, I get a piece of US Mail entitled YOUR VOTE COUNTS! APPLE INC., inviting me to participate in the governance of Apple Inc.
You invested in APPLE INC. and it’s time to vote! You have the right to vote on proposals being presented at the Annual Meeting. This is an important notice regarding the availability of proxy material for the shareholder meeting to be held on March 4, 2022.
Apple Inc. then offers me guidance on what I should tell Apple Inc. to do. First I’m invited to vote on a list of nominees to Apple’s Board of Directors (Tim Cook, Al Gore, blah blah blah, no non-Board-certified candidate), and then I’m given a list of “proposals” for the company, each one accompanied by a note about whether the Board recommends voting For or Against each one.
So here’s the quiz! Test yourself against the Directors of the Think Different company—can you guess the BOARD RECOMMENDATIONS on select Voting Items from Apple Incorporated’s 2022 Annual Meeting Proxy Statement and Annual Report, incorporated? For each item, choose whether the board is For or Against it.
Ratification of the appointment of Ernst & Young LLP as Apple's independent registered public accounting firm for fiscal 2022.
Advisory vote to approve executive compensation.
Approval of the Apple Inc. 2022 Employee Stock Plan.
A shareholder proposal entitled "Reincorporate with Deeper Purpose."
A shareholder proposal entitled "Transparency Reports."
A shareholder proposal entitled "Report on Forced Labor."
A shareholder proposal entitled "Pay Equity."
A shareholder proposal entitled "Civil Rights Audit."
A shareholder proposal entitled "Report on Concealment Clauses."
Answers to the quiz are below the Sandwich Recipe, which is a clever joke because we have a Theme today. No peeking! Good luck! Apple!
SANDWICH RECIPE DEP’T.
WE PRESENT a reprise of instructions for the assembly of a select sandwich from Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing Dish Recipes, Copyright 1916, now in the public domain for the delectation of all, written by Marion Harris Neil, M.C.A., former Cookery Editor, The Ladies’ Home Journal, author of How to Cook in Casserole Dishes, Candies and Bonbons and How to Make Them, Canning, Preserving and Pickling, and The Something-Different Dish.
2 tablespoonfuls lemon-juice
1 gill (1/2 cup) stiff mayonnaise dressing
2 ozs. (1/2 cup) grated cheese
Grate the apples and mix them at once with the lemon-juice; add the mayonnaise and the grated cheese, and serve between a slice of white bread and a slice of brown bread.
Another Method.—Chop two peeled apples, add one cupful of stoned and chopped raisins, one cupful of chopped pecan-nut meats, the strained juice of a small lemon, and two teaspoonfuls of sugar. Mix well and spread between thin slices of buttered bread.
If you decide to prepare and enjoy this sandwich, kindly send a picture to us at email@example.com.
ANSWERS TO APPLE INVESTOR SHARHOLDER QUIZ!