Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Homesteading in its broadest interpretation can entail being almost completely self-sufficient: growing, raising and crafting most of the daily necessities of life. A return, as it were, to the days of our pioneering ancestors who did it themselves or did without.
By contrast, an urban homesteader, which I consider myself to be these days, gleefully takes advantage of local foods, not feeling the necessity of growing or raising all their own veggies and fruit, or even eggs. In Topeka, during the months of July and August, fresh peaches can be found at most of the major produce stands at the Saturday local farmer’ market.
I hold up the line as I pick up and smell the fresh peaches in the little green cardboard boxes. If a warm, sweet, peachy aroma doesn’t reach my olfactory senses, I move on. I want the essence of a fresh peach to practically knock me to the ground. The fuzzy packages of flavorful goodness do not come to us cheaply — $4 for a box of five peaches. And it is imperative that you look at the one on the bottom of the carton as it may be an older, slightly bruised specimen, snuck into the deal. The peaches come from orchards in Missouri and Georgia. Missouri is just a stone’s throw from Topeka, so it seems reasonable to still call the Missouri peaches local. Kansas has not had the best weather recently for a predictable peach crop
I settle on the right box of perfectly ripe, fresh peaches, gently placing the treasure into my shopping bag and quickly head for home. I want to place each peach on the counter, not touching the others, to cut down as much as possible on the possibility of a tiny bruise exploding into a nasty blemish. The fun of making this summer dessert begins as I carefully peal the soft skin from the juicy flesh, the aroma tempting me to just pop half the peach into my mouth and be done with the agony of waiting for the perfect flavors to come. I slice the peach into a custard cup, one at a time, add a teaspoon of sugar, stir and wait about 15 minutes for the juices to develop. Then, just before eating, I drizzle a tablespoon of cream into the cup and stir gently.
Ahhh, peaches and cream. For me the most perfect of fruit flavors — cool, sweet, creamy and aromatic. By Sunday evening they are gone, and I must wait another week and hope they’re still available at the Saturday farmers market. Tomorrow is one of those Saturdays. I can almost taste the fresh peaches and cream right now.