The heavy rains and relatively cool summer this year have delayed some of the gems of summer for longer than really has been bearable here in New York. But it seems that we have turned the corner. Berries, tomatoes, peaches...they're all here!
Peaches and tomatoes are perhaps an odd combination for my fruit bowl, but I've been counseled that once you put a peach or a tomato the refrigerator it is forever ruined.
I cannot be sure of the veracity of this statement, but I do as I'm told regardless and keep them together in a vessel on my kitchen counter for the brief period between purchase and consumption.
After returning home from the farmers market this morning, I cut into my first heirloom tomato of the season with great trepidation. You see, I grew up detesting tomatoes. For years I was only ever exposed to mediocre specimens, and a mediocre tomato is truly awful.
Finally, when I was about fifteen or so, my mother threw a dinner party to which she invited the great Terry Paulding, a wonderful friend, fabulous cook and great appreciator of fresh produce. She kindly contributed to the meal a platter of sliced heirloom tomatoes, basil and buffalo mozzarella. I was intrigued by the unfamiliar color palate of these odd specimens, so partly out of curiosity and partly out of a compulsion towards politesse when seated at a dining table, I confronted my nemesis the tomato.
And it was fantastic. I vowed then and there never to eat a less than spectacular tomato again. And I have largely hewed to that vow.
So would this first tomato of the season be one of those spectacular specimens? Almost. Dressed with my favorite olive oil and dusted with Maldon sea salt, it made for quite a nice lunch. It was not transcendent as I had been hoping that it would be, but then after ten months sans tomato, the reality could never live up to my memory. And the first of the season are never the best, so let's hope for improvement, shall we?
But the peaches made up for the minor tomato disappointment. Sweet and fragrant, they were truly the essence of summer. My lunchtime dessert, peaches and blueberries splashed with half and half and then drizzled with honey, could not have been more satisfying.
But in the midst of all of this bounty and joy there is one dark spot. I asked my favorite cherry vendors (The Cheerful Cherry at Union Square) how much longer the season would be lasting. The answer? One more week! Possibly longer, but not much.
I have an unnatural obsession with these little orbs, particularly the ones from the Greenmarket. They are just so rich and dark and sweet that I sometimes feel as if I am drinking a beautiful red wine rather than eating fresh fruit.
So I'm clearing my schedule next Saturday. I will go to the Greenmarket, buy as many quarts of cherries as I can carry, and sit on my living room floor with a massive bowl of them, eating as I weep, mourning the loss of the best fruit in the western world. And those I cannot consume will be preserved in brandy, so that my despair may be lessened at a later date.