california nostalgia

Just Peachy

31 January 2008


Do you remember the best peach you ever had? I do, and it was fantastic.

Of course, we’re on the cusp of February, and right now peaches are nowhere to be found, despite my longings for them. It’s been alternately gray or drizzly for days (though, yes, the sun peeked out for a bit yesterday), and getting up in the mornings has proved even more difficult than usual because I know it’s going to be chilly when I walk to the bus — and I donwanna!

So as I often do when I’m wistful for spring — and summer — this morning I’ve been thinking about warm sun and fruit and all the delicious things that go along with the non-winter time. And that includes peaches. And flowers.

[Spring flowers near Fort Ross, May 2007.]

So: my perfect peach.

It was a very cold day in July, as July days in Northern California can be, and we’d taken a visiting friend out to Goat Rock Beach high up the Sonoma County coastline (an aside: I haven’t seen her in years, but I had the best summer adventures with this girl; she was the daughter of my dad’s best friend from college, in San Francisco from England for the summer, and from the moment we met we just hit it off in the way you do with some of those perfect friendships.). The photos we took show the wind whipping the hair around into our faces; we were all bundled up because it was freezing (note: in July). I’d brought my dog, of course, and we ran up and down the sand until he finally lost interest in chasing sticks and tired out enough to sleep the whole way home.

Back then, my brother worked at the Sebastopol Whole Foods (or was it still Food for Thought?), and so we decided to go through town to visit him during his shift. We chatted with him in the produce section — probably annoying the other patrons with our giggly college selves — and then on our way out my mom bought us each a peach.

Oh, that peach.

I’m not even kidding when I say it was that good because here it is nearly ten years later and I still remember it. Organic, exorbitantly priced, and enormous, it stole my heart at first bite. It was so juicy, so sweet and perfectly ripe that I’ve spent every summer since seeking its equal. During my search, I’ve discovered that I prefer white peaches for nibbling-on, though for baking they’re a bit too sweet and so instead I use yellow. I’ve learned I like my peaches a little firm, but not too; if the juice ends up all over my hands and toes, I consider it a small price to pay. Um, how long ’til summer?

I’d dearly love a peach today. The sky threatens rain yet again, and it’s only Thursday; I’m tired of eating oranges and kiwis and bananas as my main fruit components. I’m also tired of soup! I’m tired of counting the days until daylight savings time begins! I’m tired of planning July trips to the Mediterranean because that’s so long from now! I’m tired of tomatoes not being in season! I’m tired of all the gray!

Rather than focus on what I don’t have, though, I’ll try to comfort myself with knowing a wait makes things that much sweeter — whether they are peaches, or summer flowers, or a sunny day.

Just a few more months …

  • nicole 6 February 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Marlene — your peach sounds heavenly. But I must know: did the tree survive???

    Amanda — Yep, here’s hoping the next few months go by quicker than quick.

    John — I love this story — and I’m glad you have such a nice family memory. Um, when are you writing your memoir, again?

    Michael — This makes me think of the time we drove to Lewes and you and Kate insisted (wisely) on stopping at a peach orchard … it lengthened our trip a bit, but oh, so worth it.

  • Michael Ross 5 February 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Great article Nicole! Now that I think about it, peaches really are one of those rare foods that you really remember when they’re good — and sadly, it’s so rare to find a good one. I’d maybe add strawberries, cantelopes, and honeydews to the list of potentially meomorable fruits, and also the rarest of cakes.

    Here’s my peach story:

    When I was younger, living in the suburbs of DC, I’d go to the Delaware shore every summer for a few days with my family. The farms along the way always had fruit stands, and we’d almost always stop for whatever they had — watermelons, strawberries, peaches. On the drive home one summer we bought a big bucket of peaches, maybe twenty or twenty-five, each one juicier, sweeter, more seductive than the last. Squeezed in between my brother and sister in the backseat, we downed them all — just couldn’t stop eating — juice dripping down our faces like the little gluttons we were, it was terrific. I think I paid for it later, but wow, it was worth it!

  • John C Abell 1 February 2008 at 8:02 pm

    I’ve had perfect peaches from Harry & David, and while I’m not sure where this company fall in the PC spectrometer of fruit consumption, their produce is frighteningly, consistently good.

    But my best peach came in my days as a single-digit human. When I was a small boy we used to rent a house for the summer in a small town on the North Shore of Long Island. This was the other end of the spectrum from the South Shore’s swell enclaves of Fire Island and the Hamptons which, as that tender age, I am sure I had even heard of.

    My parents were both NYC schoolteachers, which meant that we all, as a family, had the summer off. So we’d traipse off in on sleepy route 25a to even sleppier Rocky Point to a house with no telephone and, often no TV. Board games became our friend, especially Scrabble; I am sure I played more than 200 games in a summer.

    My father would usually take advantage of the fact that the family manse back in Queens was unoccupied to do big DIY projects: refinishing floors, painting rooms. When he did go back, we had no car, sometimes for a week at a time. But we didn’t miss the wheels. We were a short walk from an astonishingly empty beach — why were we the only ones there most days? And some evenings we would walk about a mile into town to the only place in town that had any action at all: Rexall’s. Aside from the A. Anthony Real Estate office, there was Rexall’s.

    Rexall’s was our general store: our access to candy, Mad Magazine, a newspaper (our only contact to the outside world in our TV-less, phone-less summer home).

    But this is about peaches: on the way to Rocky Point, a landmark on sleepy Route 25a, a marker that we were almost there, was the Davis Peach Farm. Pick your own, or take a bushel they picked. On the way back home after a long summer, back to school and to the TV and to people, the Davis Peach Farm was a last hurrah for our two months of peace, evidence we took home to prolong, for a few days, anyway, our peaceful separation.

    From this distance it’s hard to be sure. Memories can improve or deteriorate with age, and with those intangibles we associate with an experience. But those peaches … those peaches …

  • amanda 31 January 2008 at 9:39 pm

    I am so done with this weather too! It’s ridiculous. All rain, and no sun makes me a very unhappy girl. I can’t wait for the summer produce to come back around. I’m dreaming for the days when I sink my teeth in to a big juicy peach or nectarine, and have the juice drip down my chin :) Just 4-5 more months. I’m counting it down.

  • Marlene Dotterer 31 January 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Nice new setup! Makes your blog look spiffy!

    My best peach: When I bought a house in Antioch back at the beginning of the millenium, it came with a few Amazing Things. A grape arbor. A pomegrante tree. Two pear trees. A miniture lemon tree, a few tiny rose bushes and a PEACH tree! (You knew there had to be one in there, somewhere, right)?

    Well, that poor peach tree was on its last roots. The house had been empty for a while, the tree was old and neglected, had peach curl, and it had just ONE peach, hanging tenaciously on a twig.

    When I bit into that peach, I realized that I had never really had a peach, before. I guess that every bit of peachy goodness that tree could summon up, went into that peach. Juicy, sweet, an aroma like heaven and a taste that made me sit down and devote a slow ten minutes to eating it.