Just before I met The Author, I was living in New York City. One blistering summer day, I bought a peach from a Korean deli. I wasn’t thinking much about it, as I recall, except that I was hungry, a little bit thirsty, and I was on my way somewhere; so the peach seemed a good choice. I paid the cashier, and I went back to sidewalk which seemed to pulsate heat, and I took a bite of my peach and – well, let me tell you how delicious it was: years later, i am still thinking about that peach. The first bite was sweet and juicy, and oh-so-peachy. I remember the nectar dripping down my chin, and I remember thinking that I had no idea I could like fruit so much!
That was quite a while ago, but the memory sticks with me. In fact, every now and then I eat a food that awakens my Proustian taste buds, and I’m not sure why, but these newly lived memories of previous tastes are almost sentimental to me. Perhaps it’s the familiarity: it’s as if I’m looking at old family photos, but in this case what I’m looking back on is merely a sensation that was enjoyable. In fact, the sensation itself, as with the peach, seems to be removed from any kind of affect at all. I was alone in a big city, walking by myself, on the way to a destination even I don’t remember. How can that be a fond memory?
But the peach! It was the very epitome of summer, with the promise that summer brings, the warmth that we feel splayed across our shoulders and into our very bones. It’s the smell of the sun as it hits our skin, it’s the Vitamin D! It’s the feel of bare (or nearly bare) feet, toes relishing the warm, free air. It’s the slaking of a very deep thirst that maybe we didn’t know we had, all winter long, and then when June comes we realise just how much we have longed for that fresh, cold bite of sweet stone fruit.
Of course, I may also be imbuing the memory of that fantastic peach with the events that surrounded it: being single in the city that never sleeps, meeting incredibly interesting people, being constantly surrounded by intellect and excitement and adventure, and then eventually meeting the love of my life.
Of course, I couldn’t see all that on the day, but a bite of a beautifully ripe and juicy peach can bring that flooding back to me. And so the taste is knowledge and the knowledge is this: life is truly a wonder and a joy.
Nectarine Almond Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from one my friend Anna gave me!
makes 12 cupcakes (or 24 mini cupcakes, or one 7cm cake)
Here in the valley we’ve been enjoying our peaches all summer long, but we’ve been having a slight problem with nectarines. We buy them rock hard (not always intentionally) and wait for them to ripen, but sometimes they rot and ripen simultaneously. It’s pretty hard to put a mouldy nectarine in the fruit bowl and expect anyone to eat it.
It’s especially difficult to put that mouldy nectarine out and get a kid (or three) to agree that once the bad bit is cut off, the fruit that is left is actually delicious.
But it’s pretty easy to carve away the bad bit without anyone knowing and put the rest in a cupcake that everyone will eat. (Almost no one says no to a cupcake!) I’m hoping that these little cakes will be my kids’ madeleines.
- 250g flour
- 1 TB baking powder
- 200g sugar
- 3 eggs
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- 150g butter, melted
- 250g nectarines, chopped small
- 80g + 20g flaked almonds
In a stand mixer, beat together the first six ingredients.
When the ingredients are thoroughly mixed (this will be quite stiff) add in the butter and beat for one minute.
When the mixture becomes smooth, add in the nectarines and the larger quantity of flaked almonds and mix gently but thoroughly. Pour or scoop the batter into the prepared pan(s), then scatter the remaining almonds on top.
Bake at 160C for about 25 minutes for cupcakes, 15 minutes for mini-cupcakes, and about an hour or more for the cake. The (cup)cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. You can also test to see if the centre feels the same as the edges.
Leave in the pan to cool.