My Dad always used to call them “stone fruits” which didn’t make sense to me when I was small. Of course it refers to the fact that they have pits that take up a large proportion of the center of the fruit, but because he also spoke of “sink fruit” (fruit so juicy you had to eat it over the sink), I think I got the two confused.
In California in the summer, it’s easy to confuse the two. We are blessed with such a variety of juicy peaches, plums, and cross-a-rines, and they are so easy to find these days in their most organic and local forms.
When I was small, peaches mostly meant peaches from the big tree that grew right outside the window in the front hall where my Mom liked to talk on the telephone. The blossoms on that tree were heavenly — big, soft, fragrant and white. The fruit, by contrast, was mealy and a pale green, even when fully ripe. It would fall from the tree with unceremonious plops and leave a huge mess — or a welt if you were unlucky enough to be underneath when it fell. Those peaches tasted nasty. I don’t think even our dog would eat them and she would pick our strawberry plants bare so reliably that I don’t think any of us ever tasted a berry from them although strawberries grew happily on our shady patio.
Plums at my house were even more controversial. When we bought the house, there were I think five plum trees total, all of them in the parking strips on either side of the property except for one in the wasteland along the back of the house that no one could ever mistake for a backyard. The fruit of these trees was decidedly inferior too — small and sour. In early February, however, when the plum trees were in full bloom, they would carpet the sidewalk alongside the house with the most beautiful layer of soft, pale pink flowers. Even though my father used to rant because neighborhood kids and occasional wandering hippies would climb the trees to pick the lousy fruit and he was convinced someone would break something and we’d be sued, we were all sad when those trees eventually died. The showing of snowy petals was so beautiful.
Because our trees, while lovely, were bad producers, before the days of ubiquitous Farmer’s Markets, we used to get our stone fruit at a tiny shop next to the Cheeseboard in our neighborhood that we called “The Produce Market” (although I don’t think that’s the actual name). My parents pronounced it “Prah-dooce” so I do too, instead of “Proh-dooce” like people from California — and apparently most other places — because my pronunciation of this word seems to annoy people inordinately. Is it a New England thing to say “Prah-dooce” and since there isn’t any there most of the year, is that why no one’s ever heard it said like that before?
I have been banned from baking, due to my unhealing foot, but a scone-loving friend is flying in for an important interview tomorrow and I can’t resist.
I’m not going to be forming these scones into anything resembling hearts for “Black Monday” by the way. The only thing red and cheery in my kitchen is my wheelie Ikea chair, which I want my mother to know I am using instead of my feet while I am baking.
1 can of peaches, drained and chopped to make one cup (use fresh in season)
2 3/4 cups Bisquick (I used the Heart Smart kind)
1 stick Earth Balance (still chilled from the fridge)
1/2 cup milk (I used lactose-free but almond milk would be delicious in this recipe too)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup walnuts (optional)
2 tablespoons raw or Demerara sugar
Preheat oven to 400.
Mix the white sugar and Bisquick in a medium bowl. Cut your shortening into a bowl and mix as you slice until the Earth Balance is well incorporated into the dry ingredients and no piece of it is bigger than a pea.
Mix milk, egg, vanilla, and lemon juice.
Add the peaches, walnuts, and wet ingredients to the dry but mix as little as possible to avoid toughness.
Drop 1/4 cups of the batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet about an inch apart for large scones or a couple of tablespoons of batter for smaller ones. This isn’t one of those scone recipes you can roll out! It’s far too sticky. The good news? These scones are light and fluffy while the danger with rolling out scones is that you will end up with a heavy pastry, or heaven forbid, a gummy one.
Sprinkle the top of each scone with a pinch of Demerara sugar before baking till golden brown — about 20 minutes.
Remove to dry on a rack. Makes about 3 dozen medium-sized scones which are interesting enough to eat all by themselves, even if you don’t have clotted cream or handmade jam on hand.
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