Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Gorging on peaches

It's been a humid and uncomfortable summer in Pennsylvania and I can't stand this kind of weather, probably because my 'temperate' Irish genes get out of whack. Then again, I can't stand the Commonwealth's static-filled, bone-chilling winters, either. I've always hated extremes, both in people and the climate. So I'm happier we're in September because the sun's turned benign again and we can sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine.

Americans always complain about the horrid Irish and Brit climates after they've returned from a visit over there, that it's always raining and the sun's lazy when it does make an appearance, and they usually end by saying, "I don't know how people can stand it there."

There's some truth to their complaints, and it's also true the Brits and Irish certainly take full advantage of the sun's beneficence when they're visiting over here. A few years ago, we had a friend visiting from London in the early Spring and, on the first afternoon of his stay, a watery sun escaped from behind the clouds. Six-foot-three, burly and with skin so white it almost blinded one to look at him ( his hulking physique I'd always thought a terrific counterpoint to his calling as an Anglican vicar), he announced he was going to do a bit of 'bronzing', excused himself and went upstairs. Notwithstanding I'd translated for two other friends present that 'bronzing' was Brit speak for 'tanning,' one of their mouths fell open when she saw him return dressed in his swimwear.
"I've only got two weeks and can't go back to England without a tan," he said, and laughed as he passed out the door with a towel draped over his lily white shoulders.
Our friends watched spellbound as he spread his towel on the uncut grass, slathered himself in sun oil (SPF2 because he was greedy to catch and process every ray) and stretched out. Certainly no American--nor I, because I'd gone native by then--would have considered lying out at this time of year, but to my friend the sun was hot and perfect for tanning...I mean bronzing.

This summer I have done no bronzing and, aside from the gallop to LA and Boston, I've spent my time indoors with the air-conditioning cranked up. On those rare occasions I have gone outside, I've done so to mow the lawn, do a spot of weeding--a job I've always despised since childhood because my father always selected me out of his five offspring to do it--or take a stroll to our garden where we'd planted fruit trees. Larry, who's got green fingers, also planted a cornucopia of veggies including zucchinis, butternut squash, tomatoes, Chinese cucumbers, eggplant which I still call aubergines and peppers. I must say it's a very satisfying experience to go there and take stock of the fruit and veggies, even better to pick and eat them fresh for supper.

Yesterday, we strolled to the 'orchard' with friends and gorged on the peaches. They tasted superb. We planted the trees--two peach trees, two pear trees, and two apple trees, one of which produces five types of apple (something I'd never known was possible until I saw the thing and then had to satisfy myself it had nothing to do with genetic engineering before its acquisition)--several years ago and this is the second year the peaches grew to a decent size and looked edible. Last year, they'd looked appetizingly large too, but then a crafty deer (Bucks County is cursed with an abundance of some of the most conniving, intelligent deer in the country) jumped over the fence before they'd fully ripened and scoffed the lot.

What was particularly satisfying about this year's crop was that we didn't have to spray them, so they could be picked and eaten right off the trees. These peaches are pungent and succulent, their sweetness undoubtedly intensified by the knowledge they're our own bounty. In fact, they're so sweet, I've vowed never to eat another peach from a supermarket ever again. I'm simply going to savor every bit of what we have, purchase from local farmers stands when we're through with our own, and then recall their sweetness from memory until next year comes around again. No matter how prettily they're presented, supermarket fruit tastes wretched nine times out of ten. Bring back the era of the local greengrocer, I say.

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Spencer said...

Have yourself a wonderful weekend!

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