Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Do I Dare?

"It was one of those exuberant peaches that meet you halfway, so to speak, and are all over you in a moment. "

from - The Talking-Out of Tarrington by Saki

We have a peach tree in our back yard. It came with the house and it sits at the very back and under a good bit of shade. I don't know how old it is but my guess is..old. One thing that we like about this neighborhood is the old growth trees and the shade and beauty that they provide. I want to think that whoever planted the peach tree did it years and years and years ago before the other trees around it grew so tall. Peach trees need full sun and ours isn't getting it.

Still, this valiant tree bears a lot of fruit every year. The problem is that as the fruit grows it starts developing rusty brown spots. The spots actually look very pretty against the blushed yellow of the fruit, but even I, in all my neophytness, know that they shouldn't be there. The little bit of research that I've done indicates that this might be some sort of virus and that there isn't much to be done. Of course, this brings out all my stubbornness of which, believe me, there is an almost inexhaustible store. I want to save this tree, I dare? I wonder if I would be taking on more than my still slim knowledge and skills can supply. In the spring I did prune out some water sprouts and cut away some of the wisteria and rambling rose vines that had invaded. The tree seems happier but I know that this isn't enough.

In the meantime, the squirrels love the ( fallen) peaches and I love the flowers. In the spring, it seems that you just look away, and when you turn back around more blossoms have burst out of the air and settled onto the branches, each one a visible promise which fulfilled or not, provides a moment of pure pleasure.

Georgia, in spite of its moniker "The Peach State" doesn't supply the best conditions for growing peaches. Most fruit trees need a yearly dormancy period and our winters just don't stay cool enough for long enough to supply it. Still, something went right this year because the local peaches were wonderful. I bought bags and bags of them from the farmers markets.

I wound up freezing most of them.

The ill fate of much of what I've frozen in the past is almost too sad to contemplate, but happily, the freezing of the peaches coincided with a new purchase.

I was standing in the frozen foods aisle at the grocery store. All I wanted was some vanilla ice cream for a dinner party and I was trying to decide between the most local product (Tennessee) versus the product with the least unpronounceable ingredients (California). I kept picking up cartons, studying the label and putting them back, Opening doors and closing them. Arcticish air swirled around me and I saw that I was drawing glances from other shoppers who I decided were probably annoyed that I was compromising the quality of their own frozen treats by selfishly opening and closing and opening and closing the freezer.

"I should just buy an ice cream maker," I thought.

Well... I've fallen in love. My darling machine churns up a quart of ice cream in no time and that's just enough for a smallish dinner party or for Lola and I to dip into through the week. I've made delicious lime sherbets and a wonderful watermelon sorbet, but the best has been the peach ice cream.

Wait! There's some now.

Rita likes the extra mint garnish, but I like the chunks of peaches I add in at the last second of churning.

I've been using the recipe that came with the ice cream maker. It's delicious, but it's cream based, not custard based, and so has a sort of lingering fatiness on the tongue which I've dubbed the "smackiness factor". What I discovered with this last batch is that a tablespoon of alcohol not only cuts through some of that but also smooths the texture. I used amaretto and I swear that the faint almond accent brings out the "peachiness".

Mmmm. It's all over me.

Today's twist

The post heading comes, of course, from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot a brilliant work with which I have many problems.

"Saki" is the pen name of Hector Hugh ( H. H.) Munro who was active as a writer of mordant, yet insightful, short stories in the years prior to World War I, roughly 1902-1908. He is considered by many (myself included) as one of the masters of the form. His stories often feature an aristocratic smart-ass whose target is either a conventional stuffed-shirt or some social- climbing parvenu. The speaker of the quote is the imperturbable Clovis Sangrail, a louche, yet lively-minded, young man-about-town. In the story, he effortlessly exhausts, via conversational derailment, the plentiful reserves of flattery and specious connection that the famously boring Tarrington attempts to employ.

With the start of WWI, Munro enlisted in the army. At 43 he was well over enlistment age. He was accepted. He qualified for a commission, due to his aristocratic family connections, but he refused it and became, basically, an ordinary soldier.

Clovis, in the stories does not suffer fools, and neither, I think did Munro. He was killed in a crater trench by a German sniper. His last words are reported to be "Put out that damn cigarette!"


Alic said...

I love that picture of Rita!

Dea Anne said...


Rita insisted on posing! I have a couple of camera crazy cats here. Check out the frozen peaches photograph. Either young Archie has the power to levitate dinner plates, or I set the plate on top of a scratching post. Your choice!