Autumn, apples, and mothers

by | May 11, 2016 | Seasons Newsletter | 12 comments

Apples 1

Autumn is here in New Zealand Aotearoa and Mother’s Day has just passed. Pumpkins and apples are being harvested in the lingering warmth of May.


The benevolence of the season has prompted me to give you an excerpt from my prize-winning book ‘A Cup of Sunlight: discovering the sacred in everyday life.’


It’s from Chapter 8: Tasting


‘Why is it so different, I wondered, when I cut an apple into quarters before eating it, from biting into a whole apple with no preparation? Why do these little quarters give me such pleasure?


Apple slices


Partly it’s to do with memory. I relive the comfort of my mother’s care, when she cut toast into fingers or apples into perky white “boats”, as she called them. They sailed across the creamy sea of my plate to explore imaginary countries. They lifted their prows into the unknown. They sailed unsuspectingly until caught by my slender fingers and crunched between my new “second” teeth.


It seemed she had a special touch, as with a few deft strokes of a knife she opened up such sweet flesh from inside a plain apple. In those days all fruit was organic and the exterior of an apple was usually dimpled and tucked into rough pockets. Inside, however, it was surprisingly pristine, sweating with drops of juice as if excited to be seen.


My mother, with two angle cuts, would remove the pips and scratchy bits from the centre, presenting four neat quarters, each sharply notched in the middle.


apple slices 2


Now, when I see apples that have been freshly sliced, or mandarins and oranges newly segmented, I find my hand reaching for them with zest, reaching not only for food, but for the “X factor” of special attention. I wake up; I become mindful; I receive not just physical food but the energy of life and love.’


What are your childhood memories of lovingly prepared food and special tastes? Do leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.


You can find A Cup of Sunlight on this webpage:…/cup-sunlight-discovering-s…/


  1. Ruth

    I find I do the same for my grandchildren – cut the apple into attractive “chips”. They love it!

    • Juliet Batten

      Ruth, they will remember those ‘chips’ when they are old. Thank you.

  2. Vicki Lane Skemp

    Ah! The semi-frozen slices of canned pear that my mother brought me when I was laid low by a severe sore throat linger in my memory.

    • Juliet Batten

      Vicki, those slices sound so soothing. I’m going to add them to my repertoire! In Chinese medicine, they recommend pears for the lungs. Thank you.

  3. Hilary

    Thanks for removing the captcha … that will help hugely.

    Still now I can admire the apples – I wondered what make they are? I don’t remember apples being sliced up, toast yes, but we had lots of apple trees and were always outside munching them if we had a chance.

    I love that idea of Vicki’s .. semi-frozen slices of canned pear.

    • Juliet Batten

      Hilary, they are a special New Zealand apple called ‘Gala’ and it’s a favourite of mine. I guess if you have apple trees you got to the whole apples before anyone could cut them up! How wonderful to have that abundance. Thanks for dropping by.

  4. Dana Leigh Lyons

    Oh, love this taste of your book, Juliet! And love your exploration of food, memory, mother and nurturance.

    Thoughts and tastes of particular foods take me back to so many far-away, long-ago places. One of my favourites is cardamom…and the cardamom-infused turkish coffee I once shared with a dear friend while living in Cairo.

    • Juliet Batten

      Thank you Dana. Your cardamom memories are deliciously exotic.

  5. Amy Brown

    Sliced hard-boiled eggs! My mom would set an egg in the slicer just so, then guide my hand in pressing down gently yet firmly, and I was always tickled by the magic of pulling out the thin disks of deep orange surrounded by white.
    Lovely post, thanks for sharing & asking 🙂

    • Juliet Batten

      Amy, what a beautiful memory, and how magical it must have been for you as a child. I remember those egg slicers. Thank you.

  6. Honor Freeman

    I remember my mum cutting my sandwiches into triangles rather than squares, segmenting oranges and grapefruits so that they lay in the bowl like little jewels (no horrible white pith was left) and no matter how simple the plate, always putting one of her home-made linen napkins next to it. My dad used to slowly peel and cut into eight slices a ripe, juicy pear – I’d watch him as the juice dripped and he patted his mouth with one of the napkins and just luxuriated in the sweetness of the pear. He peeled it because he didn’t like the feel of the pear skin on his teeth, but to me it was effortlessly elegant. My daughters remember my husband putting their initial on top of their Shepherd’s Pie with tomato sauce (!), saying that it made them feel special, and how I carried on the triangle tradition with their sandwiches. Now our grandsons also like it when I do this, even more so if I cut the crusts off (which isn’t often because I’m a mean Nonna!)

    • Juliet Batten

      Honor, these memories are so full of love, sensuousness and creativity. They’ve given me some extra ideas too. These acts of caring have such an impact in a busy world, and will always be remembered — as you illustrate so beautifully. Thank you so much for sharing them.


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