Their decades-long relationship grew strained over one’s anti-vaccine stance. Then Charlotte, North Carolina-based food writer Amy Rogers learned her friend was hospitalized and battling COVID-19.
We’ve been friends since age 14, when we met at high school in Miami Beach.
As artsy but awkward girls, each of us found our voices in music and theater performances at school. We grew up to become women known for our candor. Ideally, we try to balance that with an equal measure of kindness but the mix can be hard to get right.
When the pandemic hit, we made sure to check on each other regularly by phone and text. In February, I was excited to get the COVID-19 vaccine because it meant a foreseeable end to the isolation. I assumed most everyone would share my enthusiasm. And that led to a surprisingly difficult conversation between my friend and me.
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I yelled at her when she said, “Let’s agree to disagree.” That was in March. And now it doesn’t matter. Because whether or not she’d eventually change her mind and get vaccinated, it’s too late. My friend is on oxygen in a Florida hospital with COVID-19, right now.
It was a cold and rainy day when I called her in mid-May. I heard the machinery before her voice came on the line to breathlessly whisper she’d been admitted. I’d planned to bake a pie that morning, but I couldn’t focus after hearing the news about my friend, about the world, about it all.
Still, the apples were starting to turn brown. So I cut them up and filled a baking dish. I dumped way too much candied ginger from the Mexican grocery store on top. I softened the butter from the dish in the fridge and crumbled in some flour and brown sugar, then I flung three or four times the usual amount of nutmeg and cinnamon over the whole thing.
Apples are pretty forgiving. You can do a lot to them and they still retain good flavor and texture. My terrible oven can’t hold a steady temperature so I don’t know whether it was 350 or 400, but after 45 minutes I could see the melted butter bubbling and I knew it was done.
It’s not pretty, and not much is these dark and difficult days. I was just starting to feel safe when I realized that life is more uncertain than ever. But I posted some pictures of the baked fruit anyway. Because even without a food stylist or filters, we still need to feed ourselves as best we can, for as long as we can manage to keep going.
Baked Apples for a Friend
About 6 apples, cored and cut into chunks
1 stick of butter, softened but not melted
1-½ cups flour, or more to taste
1-½ cups brown sugar, or more to taste
Candied ginger, 1 – 3 tablespoons, chopped
Cinnamon, about a tablespoon
Nutmeg, about a tablespoon
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a greased baking dish (I use 9 x 12”), place the apples and set aside.
In a bowl, use your fingers to combine the butter, flour, and brown sugar. It should be the texture of uncooked oatmeal; add more dry ingredients if needed. Crumble the mixture on top of the fruit. Scatter the ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Bake about 45 minutes or until you see the liquid bubbling in the bottom of the dish.
Makes about 6 servings.