Friday, June 27, 2008

A Taste of Home

I don’t think that I learned to appreciate the fact that my mother made wonderful meals every day, all year, until I was grown myself and feeding four children. And she did it without the convenience of a break from the routine with Fast Food Night. Oddly, I don't remember much of the routine of childhood meals except for the summer time bounty.

In the summer, we had "dinner" at noon, often with friends of Daddy's joining us when the Alabama Legislature was in session. These dinners usually included Fried Chicken or Pork Chops, perhaps roast beef, three or more vegetables, one always being sliced tomatoes, and cornbread and biscuits. Daddy insisted that certain vegetables needed cornbread, others biscuits. Mama accommodated his every wish so we always had both. Strangely, I don't remember any desserts, probably because the younger ones usually were sent back outside to play before it was served, but I suspect there was a Caramel or Coconut Cake on those occasions. Mama's cakes were famous. There was always iced tea.

We stopped at a roadside market on the way home from camp yesterday and bought blackberries (Highway robbery price of $7 a quart but happy to pay it!), peaches (Only $9 for a big basket.), sweet corn, and a small loaf of banana bread. The first bite of my first peach of the summer took me home to Mama’s kitchen and Guy McKee’s regular delivery of a huge basket of Elberta Peaches from Chilton County, Alabama, during the summer. Guy was an old Marine buddy of Daddy’s and one of a group that had a lifelong relationship. When the last of them died, Daddy did too.

On the occasions we travel home to Alabama in the summertime, we still like to stop at “Peach Park” near Clanton, Alabama, and indulge in a scoop of homemade peach ice cream and perhaps split a fried peach pie. Although I'm sure that those more widely travelled might disagree, I recommend Peach Park above all the fruit stands in the Universe!

I look forward to the opportunities each year when our whole family is together and I can indulge in making some yummy things that we never have for just the three of us. They are mostly desserts, and probably not heart healthy, but they evoke a taste of an era when how things tasted counted more than how many grams of fat and carbs they contained.

My daughters are all better, and healthier, cooks than I am, but my Peach Cobbler will inevitably disappear. The recipe wasn’t Mama’s, but one I stole from a friend so long ago that I’ve forgotten who gave it to me. Mama borrowed it from me, but always claimed hers wasn’t as good as mine. Maybe eating something someone else cooks makes it taste better whether it’s your mother or your daughter or a friend. It's one of my favorite, and simplest, recipes. Although we have always called it a Cobbler, this is really what some old timey recipes call a "dump". The topping is more cake like than short like pie crust. No rolling pin necessary.

Peach Cobbler
About 5 large or 7 medium peaches, peeled and sliced and sweetened with 1/4 cup sugar
(This also works with about a pint and a half of blackberries.)
1/4-1/2 cup butter, melted
1 ½ c. Sugar (I sometimes use part Splenda instead—about ¾ cup of each)
1 ½ c. Self Rising Flour
1 ½ c. Milk
Melt butter in a pan about 12” square or equivalent. (I use an old Corningware one.) Beat together Sugar, Flour, and Milk just until all moist and pour into the melted butter. Spoon sweetened peaches over the batter. Cook in a 350 degree oven, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, or until topping rises and turns brown with no evidence in center of raw dough. Cool a bit, and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Note: You can increase or decrease the recipe easily by just keeping the amount of flour, sugar, and milk roughly equal and using more or less sweetened peaches and butter.

I hope my children and grandchildren will enjoy my cooking a special dessert for them, and always be willing to indulge in a bit of a splurge to celebrate the season. I hope you do too.


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