During World War II, sweet fruit crumbles were a cheap replacement for pies thanks to shortages of pastry ingredients and rationing. Flour, sugar, butter, and oatmeal were common staples (much like during the current pandemic) for baking the special comfort food that can be shared with special people. 

Speaking of the past, one summer my late geologist friend and I went on a California book tour for the biography I wrote about him and his earthquake predictions. Our journey included Southern California, Glendale and Orange County. We even paid a visit to the San Andreas Fault — and together were on TV in Palmdale. 

After the desert town book signing, we stopped at a small roadside café. We ordered homemade fresh fruit crumble. It reminded us of San Jose, once rich with fruit trees instead of concrete buildings. As we ate the rustic crumble, he shared tales of nature as a passionate student, professor, geologist for Santa Clara County — and predicting shakers. 

Jim’s birthday was Aug. 31. I miss him, a surrogate dad. On the South Shore this summer to comfort my feelings of loss, isolation, and no traveling, I baked an earthy fruit crumble for two — to celebrate my longtime friend. 

Apricot Crumble for Two

3 large fresh apricots, chopped 

¼ cup fresh blackberries (optional)

1/8 cup (each) brown and granulated sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Crumble Topping

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup European style butter, melted

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup oats

Granulated sugar and cinnamon (to taste)

½ cup nuts (optional or for topping when crumble is baked)

In a bowl put chopped fruit. Add sugar, flour, spice, juice. Set aside. In another bowl combined flour, butter, sugar, and oats. Put fruit mix in ramekins. I filled up two to the rim. Top fruit with crumble topping. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake about 40 to 50 minutes. It’s done when topping is golden brown and fruit is tender and bubbly. Best served warm. Serves 2 to 4 (if you split one). It is good plain or top with whipped cream or vanilla bean gelato. 

So, this week one morning when it’s cool outdoors, I put together this easy treat. The cinnamon filled the cabin air and reminded me of my sweet and down-to-earth long relationship with a man who lived to be an octogenarian.

He called me his biographer as he taught me the ropes of earthquake sensitives – cats, dogs, and people. When I took my first bite of the apricot crumble it was warm and earthy, like revisiting a dear friend who left an imprint on my heart and spirit.

* Update: a widely felt 4.2 earthquake rumbled through San Fernando Valley on July 30. A sign from above?

Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, Superfoods, Essential Oils, Herbs and Spices) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is http://www.calorey.com.