“‘beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”–from Ode on a Grecian Urn, by John Keats
When something is this beautiful, I expect it to be perfect. A group of peaches that are golden, luminous, soft, and faintly fragrant should taste amazing. Right?
It’s the end of the summer, here in Texas. That’s a cause for celebration, because of the hopefully soon-to-end Hell of oppressive, soul-sucking heat every day. It’s the end of August, and peaches are usually done by the end of July. Years of experience have shown me this, and it’s just something I expect. Eating peaches too early means too-tart, too-hard varieties requiring you to fight the pit to get out the flesh. Eating peaches too late means skinny little fruits with greenish peels and huge pits without much peach.
So, as I made my way down the aisle in Costco last Friday, August 28, I wasn’t expecting to see a box of twelve huge, plump, golden peaches…and when I picked one up and held it to my nose, it had that oh-so-gentle fruity sweet fragrance that meant it might be delicious inside. Each peach was cradled in its own plastic molded packing slip, protecting it from bruising during shipping. The outside of the cardboard box proclaimed ‘Fresh Peaches’ in a vintage font in subdued colors. There was just enough headroom on the sturdy little crate to prevent any peaches from crushing each other during transport of stacked boxes.
At home, I deposited the box gently on my dining room table. In the darkened dining room, the peaches would languish, though not forgotten!–for I checked them every day– for four more days to a point of perfect softness that yielded to slight touch.
This morning my eyes opened in bed and, like most mornings, my thoughts went to food. The Peaches! The Peaches are ripe, and there is a container of 4% large curd cottage cheese in my refrigerator. Peaches and cottage cheese! One of my very favorite breakfasts.
I got out two of them, noting the faint but pleasing aroma, the perfect yielding softness. I peeled them partly, and cut them into pieces in a big bowl, and plopped a large spoonful of cottage cheese on top, admiring the effect and thinking briefly of taking a picture. Oh, but I couldn’t wait for that first bite of tangy, flavor-packed peachiness, balanced by the creamy smooth fresh salty cheese.
And the first spoonful was only slightly like the taste of a peach.
Another spoonful. Yes, it is identifiable as a peach. It’s like a very light shadow of a peach, not even in color, but just in black-and-white, or like an outline of a peach. I taste the creamy smooth fresh salty cheese, but where is that balance of flavor-packed…
It can’t be! These peaches are really beautiful!
I can’t believe I fell for it. This peach looks like a peach, but it has betrayed me. How many summers will it take for me to learn that August 28 is just too late for peaches! I was crazy to spend almost ten dollars on that box of FAKE peaches with vintage labels. What a lie!
If only peaches grew all the time, and we could enjoy them any time we wanted one. It seems like in this day and age, we should be able to grow peaches somewhere, maybe in some kind of domed greenhouse, and they would be consistently delicious. I wish that were true.
It’s so sad that peaches just have a certain time of goodness, and then it’s over. Like in Ecclesiastes, where it says “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”…and it is that way with beautiful peaches, too. Does that mean my time of beauty is also over? I am getting old and entering my Sunset Years.
I reach out to my daughter-in-law. She was there and bore witness to the beauty of the peaches. “They are like a shadow of peaches” I tell her. She texts back: “Aww. Yeah, peaches can be hit or miss. Move on to a different fruit.” The voice of practical reason.
I try a few more bites, moving around the bowl, hoping to find a pocket of deliciousness, not being successful. They are bland. Sigh.
I move on to blackberries.
The Five Stages of Grief:
P.P.S. I am not making fun of people experiencing the loss of loved ones.