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  • Writer's pictureLisa Blair Fratzke

How Cooked Apples Can Help Us Survive the Pandemic

I grew up looking up to my grandma. At barely five feet tall, she was one of my heroes. She owned a furniture store and grew up during WWII and had the very best stories to tell. She taught me how to paint and that God doesn’t mind our questions. He prefers them.

During the holidays, my grandma would make these delicious cinnamon cooked apples that quickly became my favorite part of the meal. It was nothing fancy. Just cinnamon, sugar and lemons – but I found them irresistible.

When I got older, she taught me how to make them. There was no recipe. Just eyesight and taste. One heaping cup of sugar, a few shakes of cinnamon and add lemon juice to taste. I still make those apples to this day. Sometimes I make them on the holidays, but also when I need a spoonful of comfort and juicy tart apples.

With no recipe to follow, I have to think back to every move she made when making them. And the twinkle in her eye when she would pour the whole sugar jar in.

Every batch of apples tastes a little different, but they are still my Grandma’s apples.


Ever since the shelter at home orders have taken place, I’ve been baking a lot more than usual. It started with cookies, apple crumble, cupcakes and now brownies. There is something comforting about baking. About following the recipe, breathing in the warm scent in the air after putting the dough in the oven, and then opening the door to find something new.

We like recipes. They are comforting and easy to follow and they tell you what to do. You don’t have to think. Don’t have to remember. Don’t have to guess. You will get what you asked for every time, as long as you follow the recipe every step of the way.

The unfortunate part about the time we are in right now is that there are no recipes for how to deal with an international pandemic.

We don’t know the right ingredients to keep everyone safe. We don’t know how long we need to stay inside to protect those we love. And if we stay too long… we don’t know how many people will be hurt by lost jobs, closed doors and missed opportunities.

The unfortunate reality is that no matter what models or predictions we make, there are no step by step instructions for beating this thing. We’re going to have do this by eye. We are going to have remember how we handled things like this in the past, take the data we have today and make something new.

That’s scary. Making something new without a recipe can feel like a blank canvas with too many paints. But there is an alternative to recipes.


Every time I make my Grandma’s cooked apples, I think of her and the way she made them. I think of the portions she doled out and how she stirred the apples on the stove. I think of how she did it. I may not have had a recipe, but I did have a guide. And, I still follow her.

There are principles that guide us in all that we do that don’t differentiate between disasters and the every day. Fighting a worldwide pandemic and making my grandma’s cooked apples are two very different things. And yet, they are united in how we can approach them.

We are fighting an invisible disease – but there is another force that we are fighting. With no step-by-step instructions to follow or predictable outcome, we’re knee deep in an environment that is a breeding ground for fear. Both are deadly in different ways. One can wound our body - the other our heart.

So, how do we deal with it? There is no recipe for handling this pandemic or the fear that comes with it. But we do have guides. We have people that came before us in our own lives and on the pages of history who have who have wrestled with fear and won.

They can show us the way – it’s up to us to decide whether we will follow.


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