Our summer is coming to an end; the peaches are making their quiet exit from the farm stands and the farmers’ markets and the grocery stores. The other day, at my local Whole Foods, I looked in vain for white peaches and could not find them. It was the day on which our uncharacterstically hot, humid summer had given way to a coolness typical of this time of the year. It felt like autumn, and there were no peaches to be bought. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach.
No fruit in the world is as tender and fragile and deceptive as peaches. Yeah, yeah, people say that about their favorite fruit–how it comes and goes too quickly, how you need to handle it with care, how you should not store it in the fridge for more than a day. But peaches are different–from surface to pit. They have a strange, midly sweet taste, and when they are really good they are the sexiest thing on the face of the universe. In Armenia, I tasted the best peaches I ever, and I am not given to cheap, fruity nationalism!
Like with all the bounty of the earth, these days peaches too have become a parody of themselves, a distortion. Most of the time they look terrible and taste even worse. But if you find good peaches in season, they are the food of the gods. And because they are of the gods, they are capricious and unpredictable and moody. Treat them gently, treat them well. Peel their skin if you have to but do it with attention. Cook them into the most delicious jam in the world, or stuff them in a pie or a cake or put them in a fruit salad or make them mix with fresh currant sauce. Whatever you do with them is your business, but treat them well, which means don’t abandon them to the cold world of the fridge for they don’t store well–which is another way of saying don’t buy many. Like all things of beauty, their brevity is their beauty, their mystery is their meaning.
This past summer, on a hot day in Paris, my friend A.E. sat me at a table I will never forget. Among her offerings was a vegetable dish of green beans, white peaches, mint, lemon and olive oil. Except for the olive oil, everything was fresh, bought that same day from the local marché, glowing, which we knew would end soon, as the night fell, as summer turned to autumn, leaving us suspended, as it were between memory and anticipation of the the next season when the peaches will appear for a brief time, bringing with them a vernacular happiness.
Today, by sheer accident, I found some peaches at my local ethnic grocery store, but my elation was mixed with sadness because they were, I knew, the last peaches of the season. I bought a few, placed them nicely, made a home for them.
Small joys, what would the world be without peaches, without summer vanishing into autumn and so on and on till death do us part, dear one?