Again this year, I got to go peach picking with Valerie & Stan and Akasha & Alan at Masumoto Farm near Fresno. While the tree itself was a disappointment—there was more fruit on ground than in the branches—the trip was a blast. Our repeat crew (including Gus, now 5) was joined for the first time by baby Lee, who last year was still riding shotgun with Valerie, and my friend Stephen Ringer, a director who is very generously shooting a commercial for the Saving the Season cookbook. (Watch it here closer to book publication next spring.)
The highlight of the trip was Friday night. Stan had found a house for us to rent, basically Granny's homestead among the orchard, and we all pitched in to cook dinner. Stan grilled the head-on shrimp and everyone passed around magnums of iced rosé, BELOW. (Thank you, Stephen.)
We must have gotten a little giddy, because after dinner Stephen, who was the one light drinker in the group, tore off to the local country market and returned with Klondike ice cream bars and a straw hat for Valerie—ever the gallant, he. When Stephen mentioned how pretty the moonlight was in the groves, strong enough to cast hard shadows, I asked if he would take me for a drive. We explored the transept-straight roads that grid the the Central Valley's vast, eerie agriculture. I suddenly realized how close we were to the mountains and their rivers, and I said "I want to get in the water," which is not a common thought with me, but the temperature had hit 108 degrees earlier in the day, and I still felt the swelter under my skin.
Stephen pointed us due east to where the geometrical orchards gave way to the undulating Sierra foothills. Up and up the twisty road to Three Rivers, and we parked near farmer James Birch's Flora Bella Farm on the North Fork. Sitting waist-deep in the current, at last I felt cool as a watermelon. Windows open on the drive home, Mississippi John Hurt on the stereo, creeping into the house so as not to wake up the others. A short night of sleep, but a restful one, the heedless sleep of summer vacation.
At 6:30 the next morning, the sun woke me, and I wandered outside to collect wild elderberries growing alongside an irrigation ditch. A breakfast of toast and apricot jam, off to pick peaches, a pretty picnic under the trees and then the long drive home with a cargo of fragrance and fuzz.
This morning I'm off to the kitchen to can peaches, the pleasantest of all summer chores.