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1. Un jus de pêche
Since I can remember and until I was about 15, my dad used to take me on holiday, usually once a year every year, and usually to France. Sometimes we'd stay in hotels that demanded a dress code for dinner, sometimes a B&B run by an old couple. Sometimes we'd stay by the sea and, one time, a restaurant in the middle of nowhere-Normandy, where you had to call ahead to reserve a table. Sometimes we had balconies, and they'd always be my favourite. I'd listen to my Walkman and eat peaches, usually when my dad was asleep. He always said they were the best in France, so we'd buy them in markets during the day and bring them back to our room and after a day or two they'd make everything smell like potpourri. When we'd go out to eat, I'd order un jus de pêche mainly because I loved being able to say it. Back home, there'd always be a weird, short silence when I ordered peach juice. No one drank peach juice back home, so peaches became a holiday thing, a French thing. Something to eat on a balcony when it was warm.
2. Miss Georgia Peach
One time, on a Greyhound bus ride back from Chicago to New York, I met a guy who’d hitch-hiked his way halfway across Canada and back down through Illinois, to Chicago, to this bus. He told me about a peach festival in New England, where they celebrate peaches during the summer and everybody bakes peach pies and drinks peach wine. Kids play on a massive peach bouncy castle. For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of this peach festival or where it was, and turns out there are loads of peach festivals in America. This is how I came across the Georgia Peach Festival: a week-long party with its own peach parade and Miss Georgia Peach ceremony. It’s also home to the biggest peach cobbler in the world (11 by 5 feet and about eight inches deep). Do you know how much peach cobbler that is? It’s stirred using literal boat handles, and put together using school bus floor panels. You can bring your own bucket and fill up on peach cobbler and then go eat the peach cobbler before having a go on the F-15 flight simulator on the front lawn of the Peach County Courthouse. (I didn’t even make that last part up.) So even though I’ve forgotten the name of the peach festival in New England, I am so glad the world has more than one peach festival.
3. Sweet peaches, salty peaches
Last summer, I peached out on my meal at Roth Bar & Grill – a cosy, arty bar and gallery in Somerset. For starters: buffalo mozzarella, peach, basil and mint. To drink: a nectarine cooler – fresh nectarine, basil, lemon and sparkling water (if you’re going to lecture me on the differences between peach and nectarine, I will ignore you). Dessert was baked peach, raspberry, mascarpone and amaretti biscuits. Sweet peaches, salty peaches. We also had an affogato, because we don’t know when to quit. While we were walking around the art gallery afterwards, faster than everybody else because none of it made much sense to us, my dad turned to me and said, "Modern art is always interesting though, even if you don't like it – which I never do." I went home that night and decided peaches would be summer forever. Oven-baked peaches with a pinch of sea salt. BBQ-grilled peaches with a drizzle of honey and basil leaves. Peaches, balsamic vinegar and fat chunks of mozzarella. Spiced peach streusel muffins. Peach pancakes and raspberries. Peach pie with brown-butter custard. And more, and more, and more.
4. When in New Orleans
When in New Orleans, drink sazeracs. When in New Orleans, visit the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, which is fully amazing, and home to the oldest bar in the city. I bought a New Orleans tea towel here and a couple of Short Stacked cookbooks – tiny recipes dedicated to a specific ingredient and written by a different author/chef each time. I bought a peaches one and a plum one. Beth Lipton (the irony is not lost on me) writes about the ‘Golden retriever-esque likeability’ of peaches and shares recipes for peachy Bloody Marys, peach BBQ sauce, peach ceviche and chicken-drumsticks-with-peaches. Her ode to peaches is almost poetic. I'm not much of a cook, but there's something wonderfully simple and attainable about a cookbook dedicated entirely to one ingredient, with bright pink pages in a thin, handmade chapbook. I think, I can do this. I think, let me at it. I think, un jus de pêche.
It's just a bar, nothing more. A bar where my best friend and I dance to college rock, where we flirt with Americans, where a man I loved took photos of me over an exotic cocktail, where I'd watch my cousins go when I was underage, where I took a man home because I thought I needed to. It's the kind of bar I expect big things to happen in, and the thing is, it's just a bar with a fruity name. A bar I take all the people I love and where we always have a good time. A bar that doesn't need to mean anything more than that; a bar I can take men to and men from. A bar that's not to blame for feeling bad at the end of the night. A bar that doesn't owe me anything; just a regular joint with a cheap DJ, fast shots and long nights. Nothing more, nothing less. And still. I could have carried on dancing. I could have stopped drinking. I could have said no and meant it. It could still just be Peaches. So. I will take new friends here and it will be a good night. We will dance to old pop and drink tall cocktails and feel like we are on an island. Like we are the only ones. I will order a drink at the bar and make myself feel good. I will look good. And it will be Peaches again.