Hurray for summer, and the bounty of delicious fruit that it brings with it. I live in Southern California so it’s pretty much summer all year round, but I did live on the East Coast for long enough to appreciate the long depressing winters where the produce sucks and you can’t get a good avocado for less than the down payment on a starter home.
But I digress, what I’m really here to ramble on about are peaches. I love peaches, but they are the most fickle of fruit.
Peaches are only perfectly ripe for an hour or two of their total existence on earth. You will not be present at this event more than three or four times in your total existence. The first time you have a perfect one it will have you in a grip stronger than sister morphine.
I was a child of seven or eight, way too young to be exposed to such things, but we grew up harder back then. I was in the back yard annoying my grandfather following him around with a never-ending stream of questions. “I hear grandma calling you” He grumbled as I was touching all the sharp stuff in his tool shed. “Ok” I said and ran off to the kitchen. Grandma was usually good for some cookies or other sweets.
Inside the kitchen grandma was puttering around, puttering being her primary hobby. When you talk to my grandmother she will try to feed you, and as soon as I started bugging her she handed me a large yellow peach and a paper towel. “Go eat that on the porch, I don’t want juice on the floor in here,” She said.
I went outside and took a bite. I still remember how the smell of it hit me right before my teeth sunk in. I felt the fuzz on the peach tickle my face and then the world of flavor exploded. For five minutes sitting on that porch, my personal universe was perfect. I ate everything but the stem and the pit. I sat there still relishing it. The flesh was the perfect firmness, it was totally unbruised, it was ridiculously juicy but not overripe. I’ve been seeking another fix my entire life.
Nowadays, every summer when the peaches are ripe, I go through the same miserable ritual trying to recreate that afternoon on the porch. I see peaches in the store or farmers market and I walk zombie like towards the produce. “Mmmmmmm, peaches…” I say to myself. “What’s wrong with dad?” One of my kids asks.
I pick up a peach. It’s too hard. I try another, also too hard. The whole batch…too hard. I decide that I will buy some and take them home and let them ripen on my counter. Now I am in the twisted world of peaches, for what will happen is they will achieve perfection sitting next to some bananas or whatever and I will be working. I’ll get home and I’ll pick up a peach to test it and my thumb will sink in too easily.
Forget putting them in a lunch sack and taking them to work, no matter how careful you are, the peach that travels will be bruised..like MILK’S ego.
Sometimes I get depressed by the whole process and just watch them over ripen, then get a little wrinkly, then a spot of mold, then I toss them in the garbage.
Normally I will get to eat a mediocre peach while I pine for a perfect one. The just okay peaches need to go into ice cream, or a pie, or a cobbler, never to equal the elusive, perfect hand-peach.
Now I have to go back to the store.