The Annual Hunt for Perfectly Ripe Peaches

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To try Regina's recipe for peach cobbler with candied ginger, click here.

This week I had to tackle the unavoidable task of a Sunday morning trip to the grocery store. I am not the typical person who shops on a scheduled day of the week. If I had my way, food would mysteriously end up on my kitchen counter.

Although I never mind going to a farmers' market, a butcher shop, a specialty food shop, or my favorite hardware store, I find that Walmart is my worst nightmare. My dislike for Walmart is not for any political reason—although there are plenty. I just cannot stand having to walk a city block to get one item, then walk two more to get another without the benefit of fresh air and scenery. I do object to the surly helpers at the deli counter. (I had to ask the manager one day if it was a prerequisite to be cranky and rude to run the meat slicer there.) It bothered me when he could not answer right away. But even being ignored and abused at the deli counter is not always enough to keep me away, as far too often Walmart is the only place to find many items on your grocery list when you live in a small town.

The perfect peach should be quite perfumed, juicy,
and soft.

I had missed the farmers' market on Saturday, and I wanted peaches. Within a few feet of entering Walmart there were peaches, huge and picture-perfect—too perfect and too good to be true. They were just that: perfect for a picture but hard as rocks. I never have luck with peaches, tomatoes, or avocados ripening in my kitchen window. They go from unripe to a bruised overripe no matter how good I am at keeping a close eye. Something happens from 10 at night to 8 in the morning, I am convinced. There were no peaches in my basket on Sunday. I began feeling I would miss the season all together, and I started thinking. Who would know the trick to ripening store-bought peaches?

Someone came to mind, one of the finest men I know, Mr. Marion Smith. I know we so often hear that behind every good man is a good woman. Well, Mr. Smith has a marriage that works both ways. He has the job of standing behind one of the strongest women in our community, with so many accomplishments we would never get to peaches if I named them all, but the most memorable is she is the founder of the Natchez Literary Festival, which has grown into an elegant and smart event that reflects its creator. Mr. Smith has been practicing law in Natchez for over 50 years and served three terms as a state senator and has the greatest accomplishment that I know: living in a small town where everyone adores you. I never hear anything but nice things about him. It is hard to say who props up whom in this relationship of two very accomplished and giving people.

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Regina Charboneau is the owner of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi. She is the author of Regina's Table at Twin Oaks. More

Regina Charboneau is the owner of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi. She is the author of two cookbooks: A Collection of Seasonal Menus & Recipes from Regina's Kitchen and Regina's Table at Twin Oaks.

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