Friday, October 15, 2010

HOW YOU CUT IT – The Baffling Apple Stem Mystery

There remain very few things I haven't either figured out or decided I don't need to figure out. This doesn't mean I'm not still curious, though. In fact, it's precisely because I'm so curious that I manage to figure out how things work. But here's one that continues to baffle me, one I seem unable to let go of or put into the "Take it on faith" compartment of my brain.

At least once a week I bring an apple to my office as my mid-afternoon snack. This time of year, with the profusion of fresh Honeycrisps™ and Sweet Tangos™, it's more like three or four times a week. Often, when it's a really big apple, I'll cut it in half and make it last two days.

The only knife I have in my office drawer is a "disposable" plastic one I've had for years—you know, the kind people bring on picnics. It's black, a little sturdier than those gossamer white ones you get at fast food joints. Were it not for the serrations, it wouldn't even penetrate the skin of any respectable apple.

Can you help me get to the core of this mystery?

So when I cut my apples in half, I resort to a sort of stabbing motion more than sawing. It's all I can do to get the blade through the firm fruit without breaking it and having the jagged end plunge into the exposed veins and tendons on my wrist. For some reason I've always started by turning the apple over, cutting from the bottom, with the stem side down. As I push down, the clumsy knife bends, binds and wobbles; I try to keep the cut more or less in the middle. But, really, I don't try all that hard.

Now, since I started noticing what happens—some four or five years ago—I'll bet I've cut at least 100 apples this way. And—I kid you not—somewhere around ninety of them, after that last satisfying crunch of separation, have fallen apart with not just their flesh, but their stems precisely split in half.

Is this as amazing as I think it is? Isn't it kind of like doing needlepoint with a nail, or, I suppose more aptly, William Tell's having to split the apple on his son's head using a child's dime-store bow and arrow set?

Seriously, if anyone out there knows why this happens, I'd be grateful for an explanation. And—even better—if you've experienced something like this, I'd love to hear about it. If there are enough to make a follow-up post, I'll share them with the blogosphere.


Anonymous said...

I have had the same experience 90% of the times \i cut an apple, with a regular knife, doing it fast ,nt even thinking about it.(it happen in the dark as well) .I really wonder how it happens.\once ,on a \tv show an african lady,a medium, gave an explanation about it, having to do with the person, but , I did not pay attention at the \i still wonder.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hey Anonymous -- I'm so glad to know of another person who's experienced this! If you ever find a logical explanation (or maybe even an illogical one like that medium might have proposed) please let me know and I'll share it in a follow-up to this post.
Thanks, and please stop by here again now and then!

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