The other night, we were invited to a small get-together. There would be six of us in the hosts’ backyard. When I ran into the hostess at the grocery store the morning of this little party, she told me that whenever they have an outdoor party, the guests have to bring a “piece”.
“A piece? What do you mean?” I asked. “A piece of what?”
“A topic”, she said. “A topic to discuss. It can be anything! Nothing is off limits.”
This caused me to have slight anxiety. We had already accepted the invite, for a fun night, and now we’re being asked to think!
After a while, I knew what my topic would be: Peaches! I know it sounds lightweight, and well, a bit fruity, but really, it can go much deeper.
Peaches are my favorite fruit. We could talk about the seasonality of them, how they’re available in the summer only, and the difficulties of transporting them to our grocery stores, making for hard peaches in the produce aisle.
We could talk about our favorite ways to eat peaches, such as with cold cereal for a summer breakfast outside, or baked into a cobbler, with ice cream, or blended into a dacquiri or zero proof smoothie.
One year, Dan and I worked on Zoofari, the zoo’s biennial fundraiser. I was at the zoo working when Jacob, from the Zoo Foundation, brought in a peach cobbler for our break. He had made it himself. I was so impressed! I asked for the recipe, which was his mother’s, he said. I found out later that it was the exact same recipe as one in my COOKING FROM QUILT COUNTRY cookbook, by Marcia Adams. This book is full of Amish and Mennonite recipes and fantastic photos.
Here is the cobbler recipe:
I have a memory from childhood of our family going to visit my dad’s friend who was a Sealtest ice cream salesman. When he opened his chest freezer, it was filled with half gallon cartons of different flavors; a kid’s dream! He always gave us a carton of Peach to take home.
Then, there are the times that we pick up peach items at the store, anticipating the goodness, such as this peach spread. Normally, I like Smucker’s Simply Fruit, especially the apricot one, and the black raspberry. This jar of fruit had no taste to me! It made me want to make my own peach jam, and compare them.
However, the REAL inspiration for my topic choice came from a Sunday New York Times article (August 25, 2019) on harvesting peaches in CA.
This was serious stuff to bring to the party.
It involved a 3rd generation Japanese American orchard owner, aged 65. His grandfather started the orchard, and then was interned in the camps by President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1942 order.
The article was written by a volunteer harvester, who was doing the work for 9 years now. The usual immigrant farm workers were avoiding this orchard because of its small size, fearing they would be discovered more easily, and deported.
These were heirloom varieties, not meant for commercial sales. So, most likely, you and I will never be able to taste them, unless we plant our own, which brings me back to Leigh’s tree. The photo above was taken on Sept. 5, 2019. Today, I went back to take a look.
This is what I found:
I assume the new owners are not interested in these peaches. I hung around for a bit, then walked over to inspect the fruit. Most of it was good. I decided to collect a few, and bring them home for cleaning.
Feeling slightly guilty, I put a 5 dollar bill into the mail slot, with a note attached that said, “For the peaches I took”.
Each peach had spots or bruises that I cut around, releasing that sought after fresh peach aroma. Some had a kind of clear gelatinous build-up, not very attractive, surrounded by dark matter. I’m not sure what that was, but I imagine insects or honeybees building it up with the peach nectar.
I will eat these fresh, maybe in Irish oatmeal. Or, I may try making a pie.
At the backyard party, we never did get to our topics. There were too many other things to talk about, naturally.
Enjoy the peaches while you can!