Apple smackdown: Red Delicious vs. Braeburn

A family taste test of apple varieties revealed as much about how my husband and I make decisions as it did about our tastes.

It was a homespun experiment designed to end our tradition of bringing home tasteless, mealy apples from the store.

But as my family gathered at the kitchen table to taste a dozen types of apples and select a favorite, the resulting debate said as much about the differences in how my husband and I make decisions as it did about our tastes.

"No flavor," my husband said after a bite of Red Delicious.

He reached for a slice of Sonya and then made a face. "A waste of money," he said.

He gave a thumbs down to a Fuji before handing down a verdict of "so-so" to the popular Gala, using his hand to make a waffling motion.

Then he reached for a piece of Golden Delicious. "This apple has no redeeming qualities," he said.

"The worst," our 8-year-old son agreed.

I thought my husband was too quick to condemn the Golden. And while I agreed the soft, mild fruit was short on zing, I felt compelled to defend it. I adopted the logic that owners of breeds of dogs with nasty reputations often take: There are no bad breeds, just misunderstood ones.

"Good for babies, maybe," I said. "The lack of flavor probably appeals to them."

I admire my husband's shoot-from-the-hip style, but I was slightly offended by his unapologetic rejection of a long list of apples cultivated for diverse flavor and textures. I complained to friends about his fast and merciless findings.

"You sound like a Pollyanna – a 'pollyappleanna,' " one friend said. "An apologist for bad fruit," said another.

I had preferred to think of myself as thoughtful, almost scientific, when it came to sorting good apples from bad. And could any apple really be described as "bad"?

It was the same approach I use to choose shoes, politicians, and vacation spots: weighing my options before making a decision, then feeling a bit sorry for whatever, or whoever, I snub.

To validate my fair-minded approach, I called a couple of experts a few days after our taste test.

"I wouldn't use the word 'bad,' but 'less in demand,' " said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission, of the Golden Delicious.

Todd Hultquist, spokesman for the US Apple Association, was equally diplomatic. He said the Golden was "mild," making it excellent for the production of applesauce.

"It's more available for adding flavors," he said. "There are no bad apples."

I let slip that we had tried a dozen kinds as part of our experiment.

"You know, there are more than 4,000 kinds of apples," he told me.

I hung up and considered this bit of information. We had been poised to name the crisp, weighty Braeburn as our favorite. Now settling on a winner seemed rash.

I pictured my family gathered in the kitchen, Saturday after Saturday, listening as my husband censured piles of apples. Then I took a cue from his style of sorting. We would go with the Braeburn and get on with our lives, I decided.

Because sometimes you have to shoot from the hip and make no apology.

Sara Bongiorni is a freelance writer and author of "A Year Without 'Made in China': One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy."

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