No, not that Big Apple.
Today is Johnny Appleseed Day, and the perfect excuse to share a bit about my recent stop at a roadside attraction commemorating that big, red, iconic fruit!
Driving along Highway 401, about 150 kilometers east of Toronto, one might be alarmed to see an enormous, smiling apple head appear from between the trees in an otherwise stale, forested vista. Fret not; your eyes have not deceived you and your mind has not been melted from freeway fatigue. It’s just Mr. Applehead, the mascot behemoth of The Big Apple.
The Big Apple, a roadside attraction outside of Colborne, Ontario, has been around for some time — at least twenty years. What began as a mom-and-pop stand selling roadside apples to passing motorists has turned into something of a theme park, complete with petting zoo, mini-golf course, and an observation deck at the tippy-top of Mr. Applehead. From there atop the great pome, one can oversee it all and even catch a glimpse of sparkling Lake Ontario in the distance. Inside the building next door is a casual cafeteria and souvenir shop. And, just in case you forget which country you’re in, there’s even a moose dressed like a Mountie. I stopped there recently while passing through and it wasn’t much like I remembered it from my childhood — it was rad! It was warm, nostalgic, and just the right amount of kitschy.
Perhaps it was because my expectations were low — I was never quite so amused by the quiet country restaurant and pen of goats that used to define The Big Apple. Then again, I was a kid raised in the type of rural environment where all restaurants were country kitchens and goats roamed freely to devour the neighbor’s garden at their leisure. Under recent new ownership, however, The Apple has a new glow about it — it’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can accomplish — and just enough to offer the road-weary family a quick reprieve.
“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”
I’m not sure that the owners of The Big Apple are quite so ambitious as Dr. Sagan suggests one must be, but they do a pretty fine job of creating many an apple treat in their kitchen — which you can witness yourself through the windowed-wall of their laboratory. I will issue but one warning: The smells that emanate from behind that window are not for the weak-willed. You will leave with a pie in your hands. Perhaps two, or even three hundred.
I encourage anyone driving along Highway 401 to stopover at The Big Apple for a break, rather than the perhaps-more-convenient OnRoute gas-station-and-food-court combo. Skip the typical fast food fare and go have yourself a fresh slice of apple pie. Or apple cake. Or apple pudding. Apple bread, with apple butter. Apple fries, apple sauce, apple churros….
Or, if you’re overwhelmed, just opt for the classic pomme de terre. I recommend the Mac.