Ode to a peach

ALERT: This post is not much about acupuncture or Chinese medicine. So sue me.

I probably should be extolling the virtues of the cherries and berries so abundant in Whatcom County—and I do love them!—but I’ve been having peaches from eastern Washington and ohhh, wow. Talk about a burst of luscious summer flavor on the tongue. Talk about memories flooding back with that taste: childhood summers at my grandparents’ cottage on the shore of Lake Erie where there was often a bowl of sliced peaches on the breakfast table, and young motherhood in southern Pennsylvania when my kids and I made Peach Quicky from the Alice’s Restaurant Cookbook.

Peaches are so very fine all on their own, eaten fuzz and all or peeled and sliced and slurped up straight and unadorned from a bowl. And yes, they are more nutritious when eaten fresh and not cooked. But Peach Quicky … now that is heaven. There is nothing quite like hot, spiced fruit on top of something cold and creamy. The simplicity of this dessert made it a family favorite and a go-to recipe when company came.

Remember Alice’s Restaurant? Arlo Guthrie’s song, the movie, the cookbook? I still have the original cookbook, published in 1969, the year one of my sons was born. Alice Brock inspired me as a budding cook to experiment, play, improvise, and get over my notion that I had to follow a recipe precisely. Her cookbook was more about having fun in the kitchen than producing the perfect dish. Today some of the recipes might give one pause in light of warnings about liberal use of butter or sugar and in this day of fresh as opposed to canned or frozen, but her basic message stands the test of time: play around with food, try new things, make it up as you go along.

Her directions for Peach Quicky: “Take a can or two of peaches, drain them, and put them into a buttered baking dish, cut-side up. Sprinkle them with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and some old cookie crumbs or graham cracker crumbs. Drizzle ’em with honey or maple syrup, dot ’em with butter, and put them in a hot oven or under the broiler till they are all bubbly. You can top them with ice cream or good old whipped cream. Serves 2 to 4.”

I’ll admit it here and now: all those years ago I used to buy canned peaches to make this recipe, and I still would if I got a hankering for it in the middle of winter! But having an organic farmer daughter has made me much more conscious about trying to eat in season and buying food grown locally.

These days would I alter Alice’s recipe depending on who was coming for dinner with various food allergies: Slice fresh peaches and put in a buttered (or oiled) baking dish, drizzle with honey and/or maple syrup, sprinkle some cinnamon and nutmeg on, dot with butter or coconut oil (solid at room temperature), bake in a hot oven (about 400 degrees) for 8 or 10 minutes until bubbly, and at the very end crumble toasted gluten-free ginger snaps over the top. Then spoon the hot fruit over regular vanilla ice cream or creamy Greek yogurt or dairy-free Coconut Bliss ice cream.

Mm-MMMM! I would add berries too, since this is berry country and because the berries make the dessert all the more colorful and delicious. The hot fruit begins to melt whatever’s underneath, and the last drops in the bowl are a yummy blend of creamy and fruity.

Why, I might even heat up some rum in a saucepan, pour it over the Quicky, and set it alight as a flambe upon serving, which I’ve never done before … but I think Alice would approve.

Bellingham’s fabulous farmers’ market has a couple of vendors from eastern Washington who sell fresh peaches, nectarines, and other fruit—Tiny’s Organic from Wenatchee and Martin Family Orchard from Orondo—and I like supporting their work of getting such tender, perishable fruit over the mountains to us here. The Co-op and Terra Organica have organic peaches also. If I was more religious about eating strictly local I would stick doggedly with the cherries, berries, apples, and pears grown right here in Whatcom County, but I just can’t give up the chance to have a fresh peach in season. No way.

Okay, as a health care practitioner I feel it’s my duty to tell you that peaches moisten the lungs and intestines and help with a dry cough, aid in reducing high blood pressure, and are good sources of lycopene and lutein, which are phytochemicals that are beneficial in the prevention of heart disease, macular degeneration, and cancer. They’re rich in iron, beta carotene, and potassium and help ensure proper functioning of cells, the balance of fluid and electrolytes, and nerve signaling.

But really, do you need to be convinced to eat a peach?

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3 thoughts on “Ode to a peach

  1. Needed a bib and a napkin just to read this — and then all the wonderful health benefits. And my personal definition of “local” means Eastern Washington vs South America. I need more peaches!! Now!

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