Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, September 15, 2013
Prep time: your entire life until now
Actual prep time: 5-10 minutes
Ingredients: peaches, heavy cream, honey
1. Invite someone nice over.
2. Take out a bowl. There’s a white bowl from my childhood, a milky white one that I don’t remember ever not seeing growing up, the one that used to go with that big red-handled spoon. It’s the bowl everything was made in, and it represents everything to do with bowl-ness.
So take out a bowl that reminds you of my white bowl. Since you probably have lots of bowls at this point in your life, 3. Remember what it was like when you just had one. One bowl that was everything, form and function, essence and beauty. You can’t help but remember all the things the bowl contained: a bowl of batter, a bowl holding hard boiled eggs and cold water, a bowl of empty mussel shells. A bowl of icing. Of tuna salad. Of chicken bones for stock. Of milk with tapioca soaking in it. Of cookie dough, carrot salad, of vinaigrette in the making.
4. Take one of those peaches you bought last Friday off the counter, feeling its micro-prickers and dense, thudding softness in your hand, and think about the last time someone rubbed one against your cheek, or held one under your nose. The last time someone did that for you, moving the smell of peach toward you like a summer dream, that small gesture that made you swoon. It’s been so long, so, 5. Do it for yourself, and then, 6. Do it for your friend.
7. Consider your first peach. Did you even have teeth yet, or was it squeezed into your tiny pink gasket of a mouth, your gums resisting its slick texture until, sucked in, your eyeballs bulged in surprise and delight? What is a baby thinking of as a piece of peach flies into its mouth on the wings of a mother’s airplane hand? What letter-free micro thoughts? You could have more of those, you know, because they would most certainly serve you.
This time, it’s a big, organic, ripe peach from just down the road two hours and you are going to 8. Peel it as best you can with a paring knife, the kind of knife that used to peel cucumbers and potatoes and slice cheese before you had three peelers and a cheese slicer. Maybe you never really learned to use a paring knife. In this case, just use your thumb and the blade to gently lift off sheets of skin until the entire peach is denuded, smooth and slimy to the touch. 8.5. Take your time. 8.75 Slow down even more. 9. Stare at this ingenious, golden-orbed package of juice.
10. Slice all the way around the peach with the knife, following its natural cleft. For each half, cut four or five slices, knocking the sharp blade against the rough pit at the center and then letting the slices fall into the bowl, then 11. Give your friend one to peel and slice, and, if you can, 12. Remain quiet, allowing the sound of peach slicing to dominate. Because soft and subtle sounds have their own earth shaking power.
12. Simon says lick your fingers and then wash your hands.
13. In a saucepan, heat up five tablespoons of high quality thick honey — redolent of flowers or grasses or beeswax — until it is liquid and warm. Remember how the sun feels on your shoulders? 14. Think of that as you pour the warm honey over the naked peaches.
14.5. Slide the mixture from the pan back into the bowl, scraping out any remaining honey with a rubber spatula and, then, more gently than you have ever done, mix the peaches with the honey until the glistening mass is one.
15. Set two bowls out and two spoons and 16. Divide the peaches, letting them tumble into loose piles.
17. Take out the heavy cream from your refrigerator and show your friend how much to pour on top of the peaches. (A lot.) 18. Add a little more than that.
19. Instruct your friend to start eating while everything is still warm (honey) and cold (cream) and room temperature (peaches), and 20. Do the same yourself.
Because this is summer in a bowl. Just as fall is a mass golden leaves falling like coins, and winter is the blue-white buckle of water becoming crystalline, and spring is life reaching up with all its green feelers toward the sun. Summer — the peak and essence of summer — is peaches, dripping with sweetness, in a simple white bowl.