Monday, May 19, 2008

Peachy Friends and Aunties

Once my blog was shipshape, as many of you know I emailed lots of friends and relatives to announce its debut. One of my favorite responses came from my friend Nancie McDermott (whom I met at the Greenbrier Symposium for Professional Foodwriters), mistress of many idioms and genius author of Southern Cakes and Real Thai. She balks at posting comments, claiming a lack of tech savvy. I'm giving her a pass on this one, since this is such great lore. To wit:
Do you know that peaches are very auspicious and prized in Chinese cultural tradition; not sure exactly why, but the 'god' of longevity, the guy in robes with the gigantic forehead, bald, is shown with a peach in his hand and little children crawling playfully all over him. He's often pictured on boxes of dried noodles, because they are also longevity symbols, long strands mean long life and you eat noodles on your birthday.
No noodles in this picture (that I found at Pinn-Stitch), but the requisite peach and some kids.

Evidence that the dream lives on (cribbed from View Images):

After sending me on the trail of the Longevity God, Nancie dropped another tantalizing tidbit (Nancie, if you're reading this, now you know we're all counting on you): "Peach cobbler will come your way sometime this summer. Recipe that is, pretty messy to mail."

Something for us all to look forward to.

My clever and worldly Aunt Anita has also responded, with characteristic alacrity, to my call for peach recipes. I'm a lousy niece, seldom writing and often forgetting to say thanks. So I'm attempting to make amends here by for once responding to one of her gestures of kindness and inclusion. It's a start, and everyone benefits.

Anita also hesitates to comment on blogs, and so dished this family peach tradition via email. (Note to civilians: Gogo was my paternal grandfather.)
First of all, you should know that you come by this peach thing genetically. Gogo's parents evidently were big peach fans. Seems to me that 'peachy' was one of my grandfather's (AKA 'Gramp') favorite expressions. AND when I went away to summer camp at age 9, I got a postcard from him which was quite unusual. It was a piece of soft leather, with a picture of a fruit on it. It said 'You are a (picture of a fruit).' Not being a habitual fuzzy fruit eater, this fruit did not occur to me. I kept looking at the picture, and asking myself -- 'What am I supposed to be? an apple? an orange?'
So Aunt Anita didn't quite recognize the peach and still doesn't know why calling someone a peach is a high-order form of flattery. Do we really need to explain? Is not the peach, at its peak of voluptuous ripeness, the empress of all fruits?

My aunt didn't stop there, however.
The second connection is a recipe I have which I would be happy to share with you. It is for peach cake. Gogo wrote it down for me. It was one of his mother's recipes-- the ONLY recipe I have from her. In fact, I didn't know she even knew how to cook. As you know, she died shortly before your father was born." [I didn't know!] "So neither of us knew her. I think she was a bossy busy body and a nervous nelly from what I have heard. But she did have a good peach cake recipe. Actually, she called it 'peach pudding.'
Apologies to all who seek to defend my great-grandmother's reputation. However, if this peach cake recipe is any good, we'll issue a retroactive amnesty on all her nervous or bossy behavior.

We should have our first peaches here in Tennessee in a few weeks, so I can't vet this recipe yet. And so, for all to test and modernize in the next couple of months, here is Schenck's Old-School Brooklyn Peach Pudding.

PEACH PUDDING Serves 4-6 Source: Anita M.S. Schenck

Combine 1 1⁄2 T. butter, 1 1⁄2 cp powdered sugar
Add 3 beaten egg yolks
1/3 cp milk
1 1⁄2 cp flour*
Then 3 beaten egg whites
Lastly 1 1⁄2 tsp. baking powder
Stir together, then fold in c. 3 sliced peaches and turn into a 1 qt baking dish
Bake in a slow oven 45-60 min.
Serve with whipped or ice cream.


(*you might want to add 1 tsp vanilla, + 1⁄4 tsp salt—AZ’s note)


  1. I'm quite jealous that Nancie is so enamored of your blog, but I can see why. I love learning about Schenck lore and how your far-flung DNA somehow pre-determined your current obsession. And the connection to Chinese culture is a big surprise. Who knew? (Lots of Chinese people, probably.)

    Don't you think we need a nice peach Melba recipe soon? I'm just saying...

  2. How could something with peaches and vanilla ice cream go wrong? I can't wait to try it out. mmmmm. Thanks great granny Scheck!

  3. More from Auntie Anita, totally unrelated to our forebears...
    Just spent a week in Canyon de Chelly in Arizona-- a spectacular canyon inhabited by Anasazi 900 years ago, and the Navajo more recently, until Kit Carson and co. drove them out in 1860s and sent them on their Long Walk to Bosque Redondo where they spent four years before Federal Government finally admitted the failure of the relocation plan. Those still alive were allowed to return to Canyon de Chelly, but meanwhile Kit had ordered the destruction of all their peach orchards in the Canyon...perhaps hoping there would be nothing left there to lure them back...