The Perfect Peach
‘Tis the season of the perfect peach, the one you think is ripe but which is still firm enough to the gentle press of the thumb to make you wonder. It is the one that smells as full of a world deep into the silky-warm days of summer as can be.
Preparing such a peach is ritual, because there are only a few that come to my kitchen each season. They “go by” so quickly—or is it that our lives speed ahead and peach season becomes just a blip on the timeline? Either way, there are only a few days for eating perfect peaches.
The ritual begins with cupping the peach in the palms of my hands for a few moments to admire its color, its promising scent, its soft fuzzy skin. Then I rinse it in cool water and gently dry it on a cotton towel. I orient the stem side so that the first cut of my serrated knife is perpendicular to the small groove. With a single rotation, I slice all the way around, then again at ninety degrees, and then two more times to halve those quarters, making eight longitudinal slices in all. The final touch of the knife goes around the equator, and then I twist the top and bottom hemispheres. On a perfect peach, the sections fall off the pit with grace, first from one end, then the other. They drop gently into the dish ‘specially saved for peach season. There is perhaps a little bit of juicy dribble, but most of it lingers within each piece, waiting to be released bite by bite, slowly.
Goodness, it’s only a peach! But it’s also so much more. I’m not good at picking peaches. I tend to end up with the mealy, nasty ones, the sort that make perfect peaches even more wondrous. My three perfect peaches this season were made more meaningful because they were a gift from a friend. She was the one willing to give up an afternoon and sit in the waiting room during my outpatient surgery, drive me home, fuss with ice bags and feed me that first day, hand me over to others similarly willing to take a shift to be by my side. This friend came back the next day with the brown paper bag of peaches.
Those peaches represent so much more than their perfect selves; they have helped me savor all the kindnesses shown to me in the past few days. Steeve’s Heliconia. Tracey’s laughter. Paula’s special tea. Peggy’s bag of edible goodies. Cards, letters, food, phone calls. I feel the love in ways that those who don’t live solitary lives might not fully appreciate.
As I place pieces of peach into my mouth once I’m well enough to be on my own again, all the cliches of gratitude and happiness explode in my mouth. The delectable flavor is made even more delicious at the memory of people willing to be there for me when a bit of care and attention were welcome and needed.
It has been the most perfect peach season ever.