Friday, August 2, 2013
Iced Tea Chat - Peaches And Found Objects
Come on in! There are a few cookies in the jar, bought, and not homemade. I never did make up my mind this week what sort of cookie I'd bake...blame it on a summer cold, not a major cold, but just enough to rob me of appetite and ambition. I'll be right as rain in another day or two no doubt, but in the meantime, I'm trying to allow my body the extra amount of rest needed to heal.
Not quite up to baking just yet, though I do hope to make Challah tomorrow morning for our Shabat evening. We didn't have fresh Challah last week but a half loaf of twice frozen homemade bread. We'd worked hard on Friday and I was doing last minute things about the kitchen as time for Shabat drew near. I put out the glasses and bread plate and tossed a napkin on the table and hurried back to the kitchen to finish up a chore, all caught up in what I was doing. Well suddenly I saw that table in the dining room: cluttered, with the same place mats and napkins we'd used most of the week, badly in need of wiping with a damp cloth and no centerpiece. I thought of that half loaf of bread and I was just ashamed, yes really ashamed, that was all the effort I was putting into Shabat. Truth be told, it was about all the effort I'd been putting in for quite a few weeks now.
I guess it was really brought home to me because that afternoon I'd been sorting through photo files on the computer and had deleted a photo John had taken a year or so ago of a Shabat table we'd set up temporarily in our bedroom during one of the grandchildren's visits. It wasn't prettily set up, just sort of thrown together, not unlike that table Friday evening. And I'd thought then what a sharp contrast it was to another photo of a prettily set Shabat table...
Oh yes, I was ashamed and I quickly ceased what I was doing in the kitchen and hurried in to make that dining table look a little prettier with fresh linens and a centerpiece of sorts. No hope for that poor looking bread, however. I vowed then and there we'd have a fresh WHOLE loaf of bread every single Shabat and I even went so far as to repeat that vow during our prayer time that night. I don't want a half loaf blessing from God. Why on earth am I offering up a half loaf to Him?
Mindful of that last minute effort last week, after John left for work last night, I cleaned the table well. I put out fresh place mats and napkins for use during the next two meals, but tomorrow afternoon I'll set the table prettily once more. I washed the crystal candle holders tonight so they are free of wax drips. And yes, I'll have fresh bread, a whole loaf, albeit possibly a small loaf, on the table when we sit down to say our prayers.
We've had a good many sweets in the house of late and it occurs to me that I've let the entire month of July slip by without making the first cake, despite my promise to myself to make a cake every single month. You might note there were plenty of Peach Cobblers which John enjoyed a great deal. I do want to make a cake for August and I can't quite decide on which I'll make.
There's a lovely lemon meringue cake I haven't made in a few years, I'd love to try once again. It's a summery sort of cake, I think. There's the pineapple cake with cream cheese frosting John likes. Then there's a coconut cake that sits in the fridge and is 'frosted' with sour cream and another that has a lovely lemon curd filling and frosting...but John veers from coconut overall, though he likes it, coconut just isn't kind to him. I am, as you see, undecided. I might take a look in some of my older cookbooks and make a frozen or refrigerator cake of some sort which suits a month like August which is supposed to be hot and steamy and unrelenting in summer-ish sort of weather.
I'm not convinced we'll have typical weather for August this year. For one thing, the grass has slowed in growth considerably already. Golden rod stems are standing high and the first golden star has drifted from the Sweet Gum, while the Turkey Foot Oaks are sporting red leaves here and there...and yes, it is just August. Still, I find myself longing for a nice pot of soup and a pan of crisp crusted cornbread. Now that is usual about this time of year. Typically I'll discover we're due an 80F day which most summers is cool, almost chilly, after 100F or more temps and I'd indulge. This year, the weather has been really mild overall. I'm not sure that 80F will seem quite cool enough to warrant soup when we've seldom made it much over 90F all summer long. We'll see. I'm by no means wishing summer away.
Peaches. I took my daughter in law to the peach shed this week to buy her peaches while they were visiting. She complained that all the ones in her local groceries were California peaches. "I want Georgia peaches while I'm in Georgia," she said, and well she might say it! I asked, while choosing our peaches, how much longer we could expect peach season to last. The woman told me she predicted we'd have peaches through the end of August which is about two weeks longer than usual but then we began about two weeks late due to the cooler Spring. That means I still have time to go off and indulge myself in peach ice cream at least once this month which I consider a seasonal treat.
The other night I indulged in another seasonal treat as my supper: semi frozen peach slices, slightly sweetened with sugar and served with a splash of cream (half and half ) over the top. If they are just right, the peach slices are firm but not solid, the cream will freeze over them and it's almost like eating an ice cream treat.
Grandmama Crowley always used to serve this to me. It was a huge treat to me even as an adult when I'd visit, but I most especially remember her thawing peaches from her freezer for me when I was a child. My brothers didn't care for this tasty treat as I did. I consider it a nostalgia food as well as a seasonal treat. It's nice, when we're adults and the world is determined to show us how imperfect, fallible and lacking we are, to eat a childhood food that immediately transports us and reminds us of what it was like once upon a long time ago to have been simply adored for who we were. I needed that memory that night as much as I craved the sweet treat of the frozen fruit. Sigh. If only the effects could be lasting, right?
As I ate, I thought about my two Grandmothers. Granny had a realist's view of us children...and that was no doubt why we felt safe with her. You don't have far to fall if you're not on a pedestal. Not that Granny didn't think we were essentially good children, but she knew the potential for being less than good was there, lol, and tended to nip it before it bloomed fully. But Grandmama doted on us and I guess we needed a bit of that too, as it was a nice counterbalance to our parents view that we were a great deal less than perfect. Per Grandmama there were never funnier, sweeter, better behaved, better looking, smarter children than we three.
As for my own grandchildren, I think I tend to lean towards Granny's approach. My grandchildren are smart and bright and lovely children overall, but they are children, with child-like tendencies. I like them that way. I don't know that I'll ever know my grandchildren as well as Granny came to know us. It appears that for the most part I'll be a long distance grandparent, but I hope they will at least think fondly of me.
Grandaddy C retired from the local base and took up his hobby of bartering and trading, going to auctions and bringing home lots of 'treasure' (wonder where I get it from? lol), did some small scale farming and in the summer just for fun and conversation, ran a fruit stand off an exit of I-75. He kept us well supplied with peaches, nectarines and plums. Grandmama always had a few peaches to put up in the freezer thanks to Grandaddy's summer occupation.
I do have a peach memory of Granny as well. Years ago, somewhere nearer 50 years ago there was a peach orchard in the field across the road, as there is today. The man who owned the land gave Granny permission to gather all she'd like from his trees each year. I recall a very hot summer afternoon with Granny in the peach orchard, pulling ripe peaches from the tree. The peach fuzz itched terribly and the itch tripled on sweaty skin. The leaves had a sort of an acrid green smell, not uncommon to plants, and the ground around the trees was rough from being plowed to kill the weeds. I don't think we gathered many peaches that day, most likely due to my whines that it was too hot and I was too itchy. I don't recall Granny ever making peach jam or putting up more than a few packets of frozen peaches which were strictly for cobblers and nothing but cobblers.
I noted that Lori ate a peach the other night with the peel on it, as does John. That is something I just can't bring myself to do! I don't know why except as children they were always pared and handed to us and that's the way I've eaten them all my life since. I don't recall ever seeing a person eat a peach with the peel on it. John keeps insisting to me that he loved the peaches at school that were canned with the peels on them. I keep telling him he's referring to apricots which were canned with the peels on them not peaches. I ate them myself when I was in school and I enjoy fresh apricots, peel and all, as an adult, but not peaches.
Mama bought peaches each year and we canned them, halves for salads and slices for pies. She also put up peach jam which was delicious on a warm biscuit and tasted almost as good as fresh peaches. When I was in my early teens, Mama left many of her summer canning tasks to me. I spent many a summer putting up peaches, learned to make the heavy syrup and how to time the water baths. I won't tell you I liked doing it. I found it all a bit nerve wracking really with the constant need of boiling water for sterilizing jar and canning and the admonitions to remember not to get syrup on the jar mouth or it wouldn't can properly and then there was the boiling syrup. I burnt myself often enough to be super wary and still I burned myself. I daresay I could manage now if I chose to do so and wouldn't feel half as nervous as I did then.
And that reminds me of a particularly difficult summer in my first marriage when we were beyond broke. My husband was given permission to gather all the peaches we wanted, 'culling the field', it was called. The local freezer plant had harvested all they'd wanted and the contract with the landowner stated that he couldn't sell to anyone else. So he put out word for folks to come gather what they could use.
We gathered a huge old army duffel full of peaches that day and I went home and began processing them into canned peaches, since we didn't have a freezer. I put up about 32 quarts of peaches that day and those peaches were so delicious all that fall and winter and into the next spring! And so welcome in that very, very financially difficult year. That was the same summer we had a tiny garden and I put up dozens of jars of blue lake beans, purple hull peas, butter beans, summer squash and tomatoes. I promise you our garden wasn't much larger than two baby cribs end to end but it produced like it was an acre or three, lol.
There are, in the South, a delicacy known as Pickled peaches. Yes, really. It's served as a side dish at many a Sunday table here. These peaches are usually cling peaches, small and whole with the pit in them, packed into quart jars with a vinegar and sugar syrup that makes it nicely sweet and tart. Whole Cloves and pieces of Cinnamon sticks, and perhaps some Allspice berries, float in the syrup and spice the peaches. I suppose they might sound odd and are likely an acquired taste, but there's something really nice about a meal of chicken and dressing with a spiced peach plunked in the middle of the plate instead of cranberry sauce. John, who can be odd about some of our Southern foods, like boiled peanuts, loves spiced peaches. Mama even made him a few jars one year as a gift.
Now peach cobbler must be discussed briefly. Mama always made the Easy Cobbler, which I used all my married years until I discovered Mia's Upside Down Peach Cobbler recipe this year and adopted it as my go to recipe. Grandmama made a deep dish peach cobbler that was more like a deep pie. She baked her cobbler in a deep 7 x 11 pan, deeper than the average pans these days, which must have been common at one time as Granny and Big Mama all had the same pans. They were about 2-3 inches deep. Grandmama lined her pan with pastry and then filled it with a cooked peach filling, then she lay pieces of pie dough on top of the filling and started baking. As the top crust pieces browned and cooked, she'd sort of push them down into the filling and put more pieces on top to get brown and flaky and crisp.
Granny's cobbler was also baked in the deep dish with a pastry lining, but then she put a lattice crust over the top. Granny served her cobbler with a generous splash of canned evaporated milk, which was referred to as 'cream' in all the households. Yes, that's what Grandmama had to pour over her frozen peach treat, too. And we ate Mama's cobbler with the same type of 'cream' topping, as well. In fact, I didn't serve pies with whipped cream until I met John. For a change now and then, we might get a single scoop of vanilla ice cream atop a bowl of cobbler at any house, though it was likely to be Ice Milk at Grandmama's. She seldom would buy ice cream, as it was more expensive than ice milk.
A much more rare treat was to have a churn of fresh peach ice cream. It was super easy to make, too. I've made it myself many a year when I had a working ice cream churn. One quart of half and half, 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of crushed ripe juicy peaches. Pour into churn and go to work. In childhood years, we turned the churn by hand, taking turns cranking it. That was tiring work as the ice cream froze, because it got harder to turn. I had electric churns, so we had the pleasure of the fresh made ice cream with a little less work. I used to make peach ice cream for Fourth of July, which was a big celebratory day of grilling and such when the older kids were young. Gracious! I haven't made ice cream in years upon years now.
Well...that's about enough about peaches, don't you think?
I had a little time to myself last week and I was happy to get out to one of my favorite thrift stores once more. I didn't have much pocket money to spend but I figured looking would be fun, and I knew for a fact that getting out of the house would do me a world of good...and I'm due another little time out this week as well! It's a promise I made myself...but I digress...
So last Tuesday I ran my errands and went into my favorite church run thrift store. I nosed about and found a small handful of 'treasure' that cost me the whole sum of $5. One thing I like about this church run place is that they still believe they are a thrift store, unlike many I go into these days that are convinced they are a little higher class than thrift (but aren't). I dug about in a big basket of linens and found two Chambray pillow shams that button on one end. I discovered after I got home they are Ralph Lauren shams. I paid the whole of $1 for the pair.
Then I found some steak knives, ivory handled, plastic but we needed steak knives. We've broken three in the past four months and I only had four to begin with. I liked the shape of these but after I got home I discovered while they all have ivory colored handles they are not all the same set. Which just adds charm in my opinion. They cost $3.
The one thing I had no use for whatsoever was the silver-plated old fashioned place knives. There were five of them and they showed some wear, but I have a feeling they are turn of the previous century in age. I can't find any markings on them at present, but I'm going to use my magnifying glass to look them over really well. And I'll shock you by telling you that because they looked a bit dingy I put them through the dishwasher and they came out shiny silver once more. I mightn't ought to have done that but it brought the silvery sheen of them back to life very nicely. I debated NOT buying the knives, put them down and walked away but something about them just begged me to return and bring them home for treasure. I confess it wasn't hard to be glad I'd changed my mind when the clerk charged me $.20 each for them...Wow...$1. Yes, I was glad I got them.
The other found object in the thrift store wasn't mine thankfully. As I stood at the register I heard a woman say to another, "Why what is that on the floor? Oh! It's a baby snake!" I shivered mightily all over, let me tell you and I understood the hard quaver in the much older woman's voice when she said "Wwwhhhaaaattt?!" lol The other woman was younger than she by at least 20 years and I'd say add another 10 years younger than that after she scared the older one. And yes, it was a baby snake, a rat snake, according to the curious one. She got a shoe box and gathered it up, urging the older woman not to scare it away first, lol. The younger woman took it out to release in the woods beyond the parking area.
Now, the younger woman wasn't much older than me and she was about as proud of herself as she could be over that little snake identification and rescue, but let me tell you something. That little snake didn't just wander in from outside...It was tiny for sure and I'll lay odds it had hatched out there in that building and I seriously doubt it was alone. I'll just bet that one of those boxes or bags of stuff that came in as donation had been sitting under a carport or in a shed and was a nice cozy nest for a bit of time to a female.
And honestly, favorite thrift shop or not, I had spent quite a bit of time digging in baskets of linens and in cubby holes of fabric and piles of comforters on tables and even gently kicking the odd cardboard box of magazines or books out of my way...Not so keen on the idea that a little snake might have been hiding in any of those places. It might be a good little while before I can bring myself to go visit there again!
Now for my last found object...A few months ago I tired of the galvanized tin receptacle/vase/whatever thingy that I had my chef's knives resting in. The knives were too heavy and the tin tipped over at least twice every single day when I was attempting to put in or take out a knife. You can see it here in the background.
I finally got fed up and decided I needed to invest in a knife block once more. As I was on my way to run errands one day, I realized that my Great great Grandmother's old sour dough crock might work for me instead. The photo below is of the crock sitting on the bookshelf in the living room.
So I used the sour dough crock for a few months but it was less than ideal, too. Where the tin wasn't quite tall enough, the sour dough crock was a tad too tall. So paring knives tended to slip down into the crock and I had to remove all the knives each time I needed a paring knife or risk fingers as I fished in the filled crock. Not ideal. Back to plan 'A', buy a used knife block and paint it.
Well, the other day I was potting up the pot of mint and the newly rooted ivy shoots I'd had in the kitchen window for a month or so. I used the little table on the back deck where I'd placed a pottery chicken planter a friend had given me years ago. I've never planted a thing in it because it doesn't have a drainage hole, but I'd kept it outside. I'd used it in the tiny flower bed next to the back steps for a long time as a bit of extra color and then I'd set it on the tabletop as a bit of decoration for it. I looked the planter over wondering if I should plant ivy or mint in it when I suddenly realized that it was a nice heavy piece of pottery, colorful and pretty.
I brought it indoors and washed it well and let it dry. And then I moved all my knives into the new piece.
I was pleased too, to make good on my own resolve to "Make do or go without..." I didn't have to go without at all, I made do and very nicely, I think.
It's getting a bit late for company now, so I'd best close for the evening. I surely have enjoyed our chat. Until next time...