From a pie plate’s vantage point, August boasts some of the Garden State’s best. Post rhubarb and pre-apple lies a small but scrumptious window of local peaches. Receiving bonus points for being ‘freestone’ and easy to pit, bakers embrace the fuzzy fruit, tucking them into crumbles, cobblers and deep-dish pies. When ripe, yellow peaches are boldly sweet and enthusiastically juicy. Attempting to steal the spotlight on farmer’s market tables, they overflow bushel baskets spending Saturday mornings being pinched by the masses. For many of us, the true star of August lies quietly beyond the yellow. Composed quart containers nestle the subdued yet exquisite white peach, a limited edition, both spicy and sweet. I’ve always considered yellow peaches more akin to summer stock Musical Theatre, all jazz hands and flashy yellow costumes. White peaches have just as much to offer in good taste, but less razzle dazzle, more Symphonic Orchestra played under the stars.
In the 1970s in Bridgewater, NJ the month of August meant several things. One was the arrival of Seventeen Magazine’s Back-to-School Issue. A behemoth periodical, it was to be pored over, glossy page by glossy page, and was far more interesting than anything on the Honors English required reading list. I bemoaned my fate to Jessie as she sat at the kitchen table, slicing thick wedges of yellow peaches into a giant red Pyrex bowl. “I can’t believe we have to read Romeo and Juliet, Anna Karenina, Jane Eyre and A Tale of Two Cities by Labor Day!” This was not the first time Jessie had heard me voice this academic crisis. Without looking up, nodding, she reached for another sun blushed peach, expressing minimal sympathy to my plight. A voracious reader and a long-standing member of the local library and the Book of the Month Club, Jessie felt no response was the best response.
August also meant a trip ‘up the hill’ to London Fruit Farms, not to be confused with Joe’s Fruit Farm. London had white peaches, and Joe’s offered yellow. White peaches were considered elusive, short-seasoned and highly coveted. I never saw Jessie toss them in the big red bowl with granulated and brown sugar. Never ate them bubbling hot out of the oven between layers of flaky pie dough. They were to be eaten out of hand, their subtle sweetness dripping from chin to fingertips. If Jessie felt like making biscuits, she would send my father ‘up the hill’ for peaches with a stop at the A&P for heavy cream. Old-fashioned biscuit shortcake was a sublime dessert, and if there were leftover biscuits, an even better breakfast.
As predictable and welcome as local peaches in August, this is a week to celebrate a birthday (Happy Birthday, Bets) and a monumental anniversary (sixty-six sounds monumental to me, Rommy and Pa.) Wouldn’t it be peachy to mark these occasions with a few baked goods. Jessie would be pleased to know I have just the bowl for it.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm