I have a thing for peaches. I love them. In the morning, with my cereal, I slice them up and have them for breakfast. My slicing method is precise and never varies. I wash the peach, and I am like a parent giving a child a bath. Firm, but gentle. It’s important to rub closely around the dimple at the top of the peach, where the stem was attached. Sometimes a little nub is still there, like what’s left of a baby’s umbilical cord in those first days or weeks of infancy. I use my thumb to knock it off, and it falls into the dish drain, which I clean as rarely as possible. I don’t like the sliminess of it. Those little translucent slivers of onion, spaghetti worms, thumbnail-sized specks of broccoli or garlic – it makes me queasy to look at them and more queasy to touch them. But that is a bad habit, my reluctance to clean the drain, and I’m trying to describe a good habit, this washing and slicing and eating of a peach. After I knock the stem stub off, I pay special attention to the prime meridian as I call it, which is that equator-like line that transverses a peach. It starts out as an indentation, near the stem, but often becomes convex as you follow it around the body of the fruit. I try to scrub out the indented part, in case any dirt or germs or chemicals – pesticides – are lodged in there. Sometimes I think microscopic insect eggs could hide in that spot, or even, say, the dismembered leg of a mosquito. It’s important, I’m saying, to be thorough.
Once I’ve covered the trouble spots, I rub the globe with my fingertips, almost as though I’m trying to rub off the fuzz. I have to admit, I’m not crazy about the fuzz. Food, I think, probably shouldn’t be fuzzy. But if I give it about 30 seconds worth of fingertip massage, the fuzz is either removed, or slicked down sufficiently to appear gone, which is good enough for me.
I use a paring knife to cut the peach, which might be one of the few times I use a gadget for its actual purpose. Well, technically, now that I think about it, I’m not actually paring the peach. I don’t peel it. Since the fuzz has been matted down, I eat the skin along with the flesh. I don’t ever think of it as skin and flesh, however, as that might make me even queasier than the remnants of old food in the sink drain. So it’s not paring I do with the paring knife, but simple, precise slicing. I start at the stem and follow the line of demarcation – what would be, on an actual globe, the equivalent of the prime meridian –around the body of the fruit, slicing deep enough that the edge of the knife blade hits the peach stone. Once the blade hits the pit, it is very easy to smoothly rotate the fruit in the palm of my hand, keeping the knife firmly pressed against the pit. When the incision meets up with itself at the stem, I lay the knife down and take the peach in both my hands, giving a gentle twist. The fruit opens into halves, one of which cradles the red, pocked pit. That part is temporarily put aside, and I devote my full attention to half number 1, which is quickly divided into equal slices – one, two, three, four. Each of those slices is then divided into 3 or 4 bite-sized pieces. Those pieces are placed on top of the waiting bowl of cereal. The milk has not yet been added so as to avoid sogginess.
Half number 2 takes slightly more care, due to the presence of the pit, but essentially the same procedure is followed. Often one last slice will continue to cling to the pit; at that point, a slight tug will dislodge it and the slices can be trimmed to their appropriate size and -- somewhat more carefully -- added to the growing heap of cereal and fruit in the bowl. If the peach is large enough, two additional steps may be required. First, several sections of peach may need to be eaten during the process of composing the bowl. Second, in securing proper placement of the peach pieces, one might recall the maneuvers involved in the game Tetris, and attempt to strategically place the pieces to ensure that no peach topples from the bowl. Such toppling is not tragic, but should a piece hit the floor it is lost and must be disposed of -- I am not a believer in the "5-second rule," especially when it comes to fruit. The lost peach must be relegated to the trash or thrown out the back door to join the unofficial compost heap located, roughly, 20 yards over the ridge that borders the backyard. The proper way of introducing the peach to the compost is by flinging it, although flinging a bite-sized piece of fruit is considerably less satisfying than flinging, say, an old egg or overly ripe avocado. Bananas, too, are quite satisfying as they produce the illusion of a boomerang effect. They do not actually circle around, but one could imagine they might if one knew precisely the right speed and angle with which to throw it.
Once the peaches have been arranged atop the cereal heap, milk is added and eating commences. I try to ensure that every spoonful of cereal is mated with a piece of peach. Depending on the initial size of the peach, this may be possible, but often one runs out of fruit at about the 75% point and finishing up one’s breakfast can become a slightly bleak affair. It is important, on those mornings, to maintain perspective and not allow one’s spirits to sink over the loss of peach.
There are, after all, fresh tomatoes for lunch.