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My (Red) Delicious Return to the Apple Bong

What’s the apple of my high? I tested every variety to find the best fruit to smoke out of

I smoke a lot of weed.

What can I say? Weed is a giving, supportive lover who tells me all the stuff I want to hear, like “Go have sex with that guy in the Phish T-shirt” and “Eat grape jelly out of that jar with that spoon.”

I smoke weed the way a non-teenage dirtbag might pop an Ambien or savor a glass of Pinot Greej: It eases my troubled mind, and if along the way it also persuades me that the world needs more 19-minute guitar solos, is that really such a crime? I’ve spent enough time with weed that I know exactly how it behaves and what I want to get out of it. I smoke for a reason.

But when I was a kid, not so much.

Back then, weed was the reason. Not just the high itself, but the project of it, what I saw as the thrill of the forbidden ritual. It was uniformly terrible weed, and none of us had any sensible devices out of which to smoke it, but that was all part of the fun. Kids vape these days, right? I’m happy for them, but they’re missing out on the thrill of the forbidden ritual. A vape may be equally forbidden, but it requires no expertise to assemble and no real planning to use; the evidence of a vape session can be tossed into someone’s purse, waved out of the air in seconds. Not so with the evidence of a Coke can or an apple stuffed inelegantly with brick weed.

The craftsmanship I once put into my apple bongs! I was never any good at manual crafts in art class; my hands wholly rejected any project that was too finicky or X-Acto knife-y. I’d seethe with jealousy as my tablemates proudly displayed the perfectly straight lines of their little cardboard horses and castles, wondering why I could never summon the patience to cut properly myself. Turns out all I needed was the compelling motivation of needing to carve an apple bong correctly because it was the only apple in the house, and I didn’t have a single dollar with which to replace it, and I had run out of reasonable answers to my mom’s repeated question of why we seemed to be going through so many apples lately. With all that weighing on my shoulders, even I could be MacGyver.

Now, I haven’t smoked weed out of a homemade apple bong in 13 years. I am one bar mitzvah’d boy’s worth of unpracticed in the art. But it feels like a sweetly nostalgic project to get back in that saddle and admire how far I’ve come. I no longer need to use the screwdriver attachment on Hebrew School Seth’s Swiss Army knife; I have a fully equipped kitchen of my own. I can carve my bong in a chair while sitting still like some kind of millionaire, rather than hack clumsily at the apple stem and — and unfortunately, my fingers — on the school bus. Last but not least, I can be discerning in my choice of both weed and apple. I’m no longer relegated to a month-old Red Delicious packed with what my JNCO’d weed man always described as “Ocean City’s finest.” I have grown-up weed and grown-up fruit.

But that leaves one important question: Which variety of apple makes for the best bong?

To the grocery store!

Apple Bongs
Clockwise from top left: Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Fuji and Red Delicious

Incidentally, if you’ve ever wondered how to become your grocery store cashier’s least favorite person, consider buying six differently priced varieties of apple at once. Ma’am, I’m truly sorry about all the weighing and punching in of obscure SKU codes.

The Gala

Per Sprouts, a nationwide chain of organic food markets whose website includes articles about healthy eating, the Gala is a “great all-purpose apple.” You sure, Sprouts? All-purpose?

As I understand it, the Gala is cousin to the Golden Delicious, which is itself a cousin to water. It’s not a particularly dynamic apple, but at least it was spared the mealiness that often plagues the Goldens. It lent itself nicely to the various minor surgeries that took it from apple to pipe, and smoked cleanly enough, but tasted heavily of wax. Good structure, creepy taste.

The Granny Smith

Like any granny, the Granny Smith is tart, acidic and useful for baking. I hoped this meant it would be useful for the other kind of baking, too! (I’m sorry for the high incidence of insufferable pothead jokes. I just figure that if I use enough of them, High Times will be legally obligated to grant me some sort of stoner lordship.)

Granny Smiths are the most exciting of the old-school supermarket-type apples, the ones that were always available before smaller varieties started appearing more reliably. Unlike her acquaintances Red and Golden Delicious, the Granny tastes like she has something to say. Her flavor is sharp enough that it doesn’t get lost when tossed with spices and baked into a crust.

This one carved up beautifully and even actually tasted like apple! It allowed me to envision a future when I deliberately smoke weed out of apples because of the gourmet taste experience, rather than the dismal past to which I’m already all too accustomed, when I grudgingly smoked weed out of apples because I happened to have apples.

The Honeycrisp

Has any apple seen as meteoric a rise in the past decade as the Honeycrisp? Maybe so, actually! I’m not a subscriber to Apple Gossip Quarterly and am therefore not hip to the up-to-the-minute developments in apple celebrity, but I do know that the Honeycrisp is the young upstart of the supermarket apple section: It didn’t appear in U.S. supermarkets until 1997 and has since become one of the top five most popular varieties in the country. For reference, I didn’t appear until 1991, and to this day am not one of the top five most popular of anything.

This is my favorite type of apple to eat. It really does taste a little like honey, with an acidic tang to back it up. But Lord, this pipe just didn’t want to pull! I pulled so hard that I sucked out a good deal of juice, and confirmed that my holes were oriented correctly (hee hee), but the meat of this Honeycrisp inexplicably had the density of a white rhino. No air or smoke would come through.

The Pink Lady

Most notable for being an apple I’m not that interested in. Everything it does, some other apple does more to my taste: It’s tart, but less so than the Granny Smith; its popularity is newish, but that’s true of the superior Honeycrisp, too. Maybe this is the day the Pink Lady finally blows me away — by getting me high!

Eh. Not really.

This was the easiest one to carve up by far, which was pleasant for me. It’s been so long since I’ve done this that I’ve lost any grace I once brought to the task, and it was nice to just poke three holes and get a-smokin’, just like in the good old days. But beyond that, the Pink Lady continues to have little to recommend it.

The Fuji

I used to work at an ice cream shop whose owner kept trying to develop a Fuji apple flavor, but ultimately declared it too sweet for the purpose. Too sweet. For ice cream!

He wasn’t wrong; these bad boys sure are sweet. The sweet taste of my Fuji pipe was intolerable, even if everything else about smoking out of it was okay. However, my Indian food delivery arrived just as I began smoking out of my Fuji apple, so I do have to give it points for being a good luck charm.

The Red Delicious

Official 2020 winner of the Okayest Apple Award — mazel tov, Red! It tastes okay, and its texture is okay. One time I thought I ate a really good Red Delicious, but I was stoned and had coated it in peanut butter, so most likely I was vibing off that peanut butter and the apple was just alright. Still, because Red Delicious was far and away the easiest apple to find in grocery stores for decades, it’s the apple bong of my childhood.

I might as well confess that while my intention was to smoke these apples over the course of several days, unfortunately, I’m a stoner. Once weed-smoking transforms into an actual task for which I’m getting paid, it immediately becomes unattractive, and I start putting it off. All of this is to say that I smoked all six of these apple bowls in the course of about an hour and was irresponsibly blazed by the time I got around to Red here. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the only note I wrote down was: “WICKED.”

You heard the lady! Red Delicious apple bongs are Wicked!

The Last Bit of Smoke to Be Blown

Making an apple bong is like riding a bike, in that I’m presently awful at it. What on earth happened to me? There was a time I could whip up an apple bong in less time than it took me to type this sentence. I guess that as we grow up, the concerns of adulthood gradually push out the skills and hobbies of our youth. I wonder which mundane piece of grown-up information pushed the apple pipe instructions manual out of my head for good. Was it my encyclopedic knowledge of NSAIDs? My recollection of which battery type goes in my meat thermometer?

Smoking out of an apple pipe again reminded me of all the tension that once attended my drug use. It never used to be inevitable that I could smoke weed when I wanted to. First, I had to track it down from my friend Michael’s cousin Julie, who was hopefully still dating that weed dealer. From there, I had to make sure my mom wouldn’t be home for several hours, so that the smell would have time to dissipate. And of course, I needed to have an apple or Coke can on hand, which sounds easy enough until you remember that I had no money whatsoever at age 14. A 75-cent apple might as well have cost $75.

I’m 29 now, plagued by none of these concerns. The thing about buying and smoking weed presently is that it’s become positively humdrum. It’s enjoyable, but mindless — a tension-free activity. I don’t miss the tension, but I have to admit that it added something to the experience. Now that I don’t have to worry about my mom finding my pipe, I can let empty Coke cans be recycling; I can let apples be food. The ingenuity is gone. And so, if even just for an hour, it was fun to let myself feel like I might get in trouble again.