rotten apples


“Don’t let things get to be rotten apples,” my dad used to say, my dad always said. Things rot. In a barrel of apples, it’s not the ones on top that are rotting. It is the ones underneath, in the dark and buried deep.

The same is true in the barrel of life.

The rotting, it begins, and we don’t even know it. It happens when something upsets us and we think it easiest to bury it deep in the dark.  It happens when we think it’s not possible to work through differences. It happens when we believe our feelings don’t matter, and that talking through the tension won’t make a difference.

It happens when we decide to be martyrs…to kill our own perspectives in the name of peace.

This doesn’t make peace. This makes rot. One rotten apple will ruin an entire barrel.

The same is true in the barrel of life.

I have a recipe written in my Grandma Miller’s loopy, slanty, old-person handwriting. It is for apple cake. It begins with four cups of apples mixed with two cups of sugar. It must sit for 20 minutes.

I didn’t make the recipe for 20 years. Who has time to let apples and sugar sit for 20 minutes?

It is called macerating. This process of apples and sugar sitting together, allowing the fruit to break down and release its juices, to become soft.

I made the cake again this week. It’s the fourth time I’ve made the cake in the last eight weeks. I guess I’m the one who has time to let apples and sugar sit for 20 minutes. I guess I’m the one learning that in order to truly live, I must be the one who has time to let apples and sugar sit for 20 minutes. To macerate. To break down. To become soft.

It’s not just good for apple cake.

I’m eating my apple cake and thinking that I may be reviling my dad for the mantra, “Don’t let things get to be rotten apples.” There’s a lot of potential for rotting around here, with three teens who are fighting to find their voices while living in harmony.

We let apples sit in the open with sugar and they become soft and sweet. We let apples sit in the dark with bruises and they become mushy and rotten. Sometimes it is hard to know when to let things sit.

Or is it?

If they sit in the light, they become soft and sweet. If they sit in the dark, they become mushy and rotten.

Don’t let things become rotten apples. 

Grandma Miller’s Apple Cake

Mix { 4 c. diced apples + 2 c. sugar} Let stand 20 minutes.

Then add:

2 beaten eggs
2 c. flour
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. nuts
1/2 c. raisins (Yuk…the granddaughter’s version leaves these out.)

Bake in 9×13 pan (greased)
350 – 30-40 min.


1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 c. water

Stir and cook til bubbly. Add 1 stick butter, 2 tsp. vanilla.

Pour on cake while hot.

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  1. What a wonderful read this morning! The analogy was powerful! I am weary with this isolation. I have no reason to be and I am grateful for all that I have. . . being with a house full of kids and noise sounds wonderful . . . for a few moments.:) Thank you for the recipe and the invitation for writing. I may just take you up on that. Take care, Shirley

  2. Such wisdom comes from those who have lived and been bruised and in the dark. Keep living in the light and let the sweet fill you!
    What a decadent cake! Yum!

  3. Thank you, Ruth, for this thought pondering post. Many of my Dad’s adages come to mind as I read through your post. Where have they all gone and why don’t we share them with our children and grandchildren. Of course, they would probably think that Mom/Grandma has lost it! How times changes, but still these sayings have lots of hidden meanings.

  4. For someone who lives in the raisin capital of the world, and has all of her life, I’m sorry you don’t want raisins in your cake.

  5. I admire how you crafted this post with repetition, life lesson, sweet apples and an apple cake.

  6. There are so many things to love about this post – the metaphor of the rotten apple. Your advice to not let things become rotten apples is so wise. Thank you for sharing this beautiful writing!

  7. I liked following the thread of this story, from one of your dad’s adages to life applications to a family recipe. A trail of thought worth taking to heart. ““Don’t let things get to be rotten apples.” Amen to that!

  8. That’s a fantastic metaphor. One of the reasons I love your stories is that they help me remember where I’m storing rotten apples and start fresh again. This reminds me of John Mark Comer’s book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry–have you read it?

    My family hopes I make that cake soon!

  9. I was just thinking this week how time is the secret sauce of my mother’s recipes– and how much better our meals taste during this season that is all time all the time. I loved this piece– an invitation for me (and some apples) to sit in the light and to relish time. It is the sweeter course. Thanks for the lyrical reminder.

  10. What a sweet piece and a recipe to boot! You know I love your conclusion – “If they sit in the light, they become soft and sweet.” What’s not t love when you are dancing with my OLW, light! Here’s to apple cake, sitting in the light, waiting, and teenagers (glad there aren’t any in my house right now), but some days it would be nice to break the monotony with some teen drama (NOT!). Hugs to you and yours!

  11. What a wonderful connection you make here Ruth. Sadly, I don’t eat apples, or use them for anything thing although once it’s not an apple I’m good to go- I like apple sauce and apple cake… but I get the connection and good things are happening during this period of isolation… a reordering of priorities maybe… slowing down is a good thing, right? I love how your piece flows with your threads… finding their way to merge together.

  12. I think that what I love about this piece, Ruth, is the forcefulness of your voice in giving us this lesson. And yet, you soften it, you season it, with apples and sugar and clearly, love. Looking forward to May sunshine for us all!

  13. Recipes like songs bring back memories. The span time and connect us. I love the part of about the macerated apples. Pre-COVID – who DID have time for that? Now I find myself cooking, baking, or planning breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Before COVID – I’d eat on the run. I guess it’s making me healthier! I promise to macerate some apples and try your recipe!