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.