Henry David Thoreau was fond of foraging on his lengthy tramps through Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. His favorite fruits were wild apples from trees randomly planted by animals or from neglected trees where the grafts had died and the root stock survived.
In his natural history essay “Wild Apples,” he raves about the spicy tang of these noncommercial varieties. “They are more memorable to my taste than the grafted kinds; more racy and wild American flavors do they possess.” He found their wild taste “vivacious and inspiriting.”
Thoreau observed that “the time for wild apples is the last of October and the first of November. They then get to be palatable, for they ripen late, and they are still, perhaps, as beautiful as ever.” Not surprisingly, his favorite dessert was boiled apple pudding — often his entire meal.
Thoreau followed a mainly vegetarian diet at a time when the American diet was centered on meat. He made a practice of eating locally produced foodstuffs, such as beans and apples. His neighbors were growing hay and field corn as commodities and advised him to do the same. Instead, Thoreau cultivated a small field of beans at Walden Pond to demonstrate sustainable farming for local consumption.
I think he would like the following dish from “Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book” of 1884.
Like many cookbook writers of her generation, financial necessity drove Mary J. Lincoln to teach cooking and writing cookbooks. She was the first principal of the famous Boston Cooking School, which taught nutrition and sanitation as well as cooking. Her book became the standard text for other cooking schools as well her own and the forerunner of the perennial bestseller by Fannie Merritt Farmer.