Northern Spy

One of the best features of the Xbox home console system is that you can rip music from music CDs to the hard disk. Some games then allow you to play that music back in-game. The classic street racer Project Gotham Racing is one such game. One of the first things I did upon acquiring an Xbox was to rip a whole bunch of surf music on to the hard drive. Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. Los Straitjackets. Huevos Rancheros. And a small, barely known band called Barbacoa, who have a song called Northern Spy which, as you would expect, was a sort of Canadianish James Bond-y sort of thing.

It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that “Northern Spy” is actually the name of a variety of apple. I’d certainly never tasted one. I decided I wanted one because, well, y’know. It’s called Northern Spy. It has to be great! They seem to be very hard to find – everyplace I’ve asked has just said that they don’t carry them, or that they’re sold out. But tonight, at Whole Foods, I found a cache of Northern Spys. So I brought some home.

They’re a blotchy red and green, and quite large. The flesh has the texture of a Red Delicious, but the skin is much thinner and thus not so intrusive. They’re on the tart side, which I consider to be a virtue – not as tart as a Granny Smith, but nearly so, and much juicier. They’re apparently considered a “pie apple,” presumably because people only like eating super-sweet things out of hand. But I enjoyed the one I’ve eaten in hand so far. I intend to eat more.

I’ve looked online to find someone who specializes in interesting and unusual apples, but haven’t had any luck, at least at reasonable prices (I found one place offering to send me a box of 15 Stayman-Winesaps for something like $40. No, thanks.) Mail order is fine, but I’d be willing to take a road trip, too. If you know of any place like that, please add a comment, below.

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