My mother-in-law brought me a box full of apples yesterday. Each apple hand-picked by a happy family on a brilliant fall day at some private orchard in a northern state. Each apple then wrapped in an obscene amount of foam to protect its glossy, even-toned perfection.
This time of year, I use these apples to make a variation of perada. Call it a manzanada maybe. Making good perada is an art whose secrets I’ve only recently learned. When you explain the recipe to most, they react as though you are committing an assault against the apple. The addition of onions, garlic, cumin and chile to the fruit threatens to tarnish it’s pure, unimposing, sacred sweetness. It seems rude to the family that toiled for the apples.
Cook the perada too little and people can detect the individual flavors fighting for dominance over the fruit. Their noses crinkle to recognize the chile against the background of the apple. The apple is familiar. The chile is unexpected and unwelcome. But, if you’re patient and cook the perada over a very low simmer for hours and hours, the added flavors meld together until no individual flavor is recognizable. People taste it and know that the apple is different in some way, but they don’t quite know why.
The don’t know how until they ask. Or until you, unwisely, volunteer the information. Then they turn their noses up at the chile in their apples.