Oh, peaches! Oh, woe!

Let me talk to you about peaches. See, I grew up in North Carolina and every summer we’d drive to TN to visit my grandmothers with occasional visits to Georgia.  In the summer, the peaches were cheap and splendid. You’d buy them by the side of the road where they’d just come off the tree and were still warm with the sun. The sweet juice just ran down your chin as the flesh of the peach dissolved in your mouth.

I thought peaches were like that everywhere.

For the past seventeen years, I’ve lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest with excursions to NYC and Iceland. None of these places has decent peaches. I’m reminded of this because I am suffering from the gravest disappointment of a Oregon peach. Grave. Disappointment.

It’s made graver by the fact that I spent last weekend in North Carolina at NASFIC and had real peaches again.  My God. The first one I ate made me sag with relief and sheer sybaritic pleasure.

Coming home, I was excited to see that our CSA package this week had peaches. Fool. FOOL! Oh, what a sorry excuse for fruit this was. Hard and tasteless with more than just a failure to ripen. This was a peach without the promise of rich succulence. The ignominy!

Do you understand the anguish? Have you loved a food only to discover that it was regionally specific? Did you take the morsel for granted?

About Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY (Tor 2010) & won the 2008 Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She is also a professional puppeteer.

110 thoughts on “Oh, peaches! Oh, woe!

  1. I know exactly what you mean. I live in the DC area. Grocery store peaches here will rot before they ripen. You can get decent peaches at farmer’s markets and roadside stands, but they’re still not as good as the ones we buy on our way to the beach in North Carolina.

    A fine peach is its own thing– juicy and succulent, as meaty as a rare steak, and as sweet as true love. If you don’t live where peaches grow well, the only answer is Harry and David. The peaches they send will cost the earth, but they will ripen into something that approximates your memories.

  2. I feel ya, sister.

    I grew up in southern Colorado, which is almost entirely Hispanic. I’m half Mexican myself and I grew up with all manner of amazing Mexican food. Plus, the area I’m from grows peppers of all kinds and they are super delicious. I was used to homemade everything from the tortillas to the green chile to the fresh pork and beef from the nearby farms.

    Then I moved to Ohio.

    This is the land of white people. The first time I had what passes for Mexican food here, I could not eat it. It wasn’t spicy and it didn’t even taste like anything, really, except salt. Oh, the salt. Also, they don’t have tortillas here, they have ‘wraps’ which are an abomination.

    I haven’t been back home for about 8 years. Maybe I should venture back there so I can be reminded of what I’m missing. ><

  3. Frog Hollow. Horrendously expensive but it’s a once a year treat to get a crate. Blows H&D away on price (more expensive) and taste.

  4. Somehow I still manage to be surprised when I find that a Chinese restaurant doesn’t have Crab Rangoon (crab, scallions, and cream cheese in a fried wonton) on the menu. I don’t know why it seems to be a Boston thing – the seafood connection, maybe – but once I cross the border into Connecticut and all points south and west, it just vanishes from menus.

  5. Three times:

    1st: Born and raised in Memphis, TN. My mom took us on a trip to Seattle where we took a trip to Tillicum Village and had the smoked salmon bake…nothing has ever compared since

    2nd: When I joined the Navy and left home and discovered how bad barbecue was everywhere else.

    3rd: After living in the Tidewater area of VA for 10 years, I moved back home and immediately realized that seafood in general (with the exception of catfish and crawdads) and steamed soft-shelled blue crab in particular were WOEFULLY lacking in Memphis.

  6. Ditto apricots here in California-and we used to grow great tasting ones (Silicon Valley pre-computer days.) It’s not just a matter of locale-they simply pick ‘em green and ship ‘em out. Tomatoes. Strawberries. Et cetera and so forth.

    Bah. Humbug.

    Boy, I miss apricots.

  7. i’m surprised the poster above, from southern colorado, didn’t mention the western slope high country palisade peaches that are just into season. i’m from iowa an never had a peach this sweet. it may not compare to georgia, but its certainly the best peach i’ve ever had. since moving to denver i swear by the colorado western slope’s peaches, melons, and wine.

  8. The northwest gets some of the best Salmon on Earth (and we’re close enough to get Copper River without it being frozen). And I know they ain’t peaches, but Orygun Blueberries and Blackberries are the best on Earth. And finally we’re the best place in North America to grow….Wasabi. Yeah, you heard that right.

  9. The disappearance of sweet tea above the Mason-Dixon line was a rude awakening to me. I couldn’t figure out how to explain to a server that no, the sweetener you have on the table will be insufficient to flavor this tepid glass of tinted water you just handed me.

    If I sip a glass of tea and can’t get Type II Diabetes from it, it ain’t tea!

    @Graham: Chinese restaurants here in the Deep South have Crab Rangoon on the menu, but sometimes it’s just listed as Fried Wontons or Cheese Wontons. Same dish, sometimes minus the (artificial) crab meat.

  10. The problem is that food is local, and the great strides made in creating “portable” foods over the past century have resulted in nigh indestructible and flavorless goods that can survive trans-planetary shipping.

    Craving the good local foods that we loved is inevitable — for me it’s fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries that I picked from wild bushes in Nova Scotia – tiny, but the flavor… oh my…

    The one and only thing you *can* do is embrace the local products in the area where you choose to live. While they can never be a substitute for those perfect foods from our childhoods, they inevitably have flavor and body that mass-produced supermarket produce lacks. I’ll never be able to get those amazing berries where I now live, but I do get to eat wonderful locally grown peppers, along with an amazing assortment of tasty green veggies, artisan cheeses, and locally reared animal products.

    Bottom line – the fruit here may suck, but the bacon rocks!

  11. Oh, of course I forgot another favorite you can’t get anywhere else: Florida Key Lime Pie. Damn, you just can’t get it like that anywhere else.

  12. Eridani @2: As Ohioan, I don’t know about Mexican (though I know that Texans look down their noses at our “chili”), but I love Maine Lobster, which I don’t often get to eat, living here in Cincinnati. This is a town whose idea of seafood is Mrs. Paul’s frozen fish sticks. I remember visiting an aunt in Portsmouth, NH who loved to put lots of mayo on her lobster roll, and wondered why I didn’t. I explained that living in Cincinnati, I don’t get to eat lobster very often, and I wanted to savor the taste of the lobster, not mayo.

  13. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald drove from N.Y. to Alabama on the spur of the moment because they got homesick for peaches. Can’t find the quote — think it was from a letter.

  14. This reminds me of a piece JS did on Bad Chocolate.
    I never left my hometown in northern San Diego county so I haven’t personally had to deal with this problem. My best friend moved to Kentucky and frequently complains about the lack of good mexican food especially good carnage asada.
    I will say that store bought fruit can’t hold a candle to real fresh fruit. In ascending order, farmers market, roadsade stand, oh look at that one, pick, chomp, yum.

  15. @hugh57: Oh man, do you guys have a Costco? The one here often has ginormous lobster tails on the weekends. I got one that was like 1.2 pounds for 23 bucks, and made a delicious dinner of steamed lobster with seasoned butter, mashed potatoes and broccoli. It wasn’t Maine lobster, but it was deeeeeeeelicious. You’d think such a big tail would be tough but it wasn’t at all. Check it out!

    @psig: I am allergic to peaches, alas, so I wouldn’t know we had good ones in Colorado. :(

  16. I miss decent pork and beef. After growing up on the farm in South Dakota, it has been ridiculously difficult to get meat that doesn’t taste like the feed lot it was finished on. Every Christmas, my parents send us a big box of frozen meat from the local meat locker and/or our neighbors back home – bacon like you wouldn’t believe, fantastic steaks, and these wonderfully thick and juicy smoked pork chops. This is the stuff of dreams, sold at the local HippieMart for something like $48/pound (labeled as free range organic). Small wonder my diet is practically vegetarian while exiled from the land of real meat!

  17. If you are in the grey reaches of the Pacific Northwest then you are surely only a few short miles away from the Okanagan Valley. I’m not plugging Canada even though I live there but they do know how to grow peaches up in the valley…

  18. @Andy
    You got that right, I’m from Nebraska originally and decent beef here in Seattle is difficult. I was wondering the other day if the reason I eat very little red meat now is because I’m trying to eat healthier or is it because it ain’t no good. Is it just me or do any of you have serious problems with buying hamburger in a plastic tube that you can’t see through? Seems like an automatic e coli choice to me.

    Still and all, I guess I’ll keep the Salmon and Dungeness crab. Oh, and the berries and apples around here are the best.

  19. Just me that had Presidents of the USA’s song ‘Peaches’ start playing in their head on reading the title?

    o/~ Millions of peaches, peaches for me, millions of peaches, peaches for free

  20. I spent a summer in Texas. I’d buy a peach at one of their stands. The first time I thought I’d die and gone to heaven. I grew up in Iowa. I’ve never had a peach that good ever again, even when I now grow my own in So. Calif. To me it was like eating a rainbow, those peaches in Texas. I keep growing peaches trying to get that same wonderful rainbow taste and it never occurs.
    As for other foods, I grew up in Iowa and the sweet corn, fresh. Nothing since has been as good. You would start the water boiling, run out to the field and pick a few. Throw them in the water. MMMMM
    Manna from heaven.

  21. It’s true that Oregon isn’t prime peach country – but there are a handful of Willamette Valley growers who still manage to get peaches to (dare I say) rival the peaches of my Southern childhood. Firstfruits Farm in Lebanon, for instance – they grow 22 varieties, fight crop failure every year but when they bring peaches to my local farmers’ market, they are *perfect*, and so ripe you either need to invite your friends over to eat them all RIGHT NOW or start making cobbler or jam. Juice-dripping-off-your-chin-and-splashing-on-your-toes ripe. Sweet as honey.

    Had some last weekend, in fact.

  22. Quinces (at reasonable quality and price). Passionfruit. Tamarillos. Mangosteens. A tomato season longer than six weeks.

    On the other hand, the NW has few things Melbourne was missing: dozens of extra varieties of peppers (including chipotles), Pacific salmon, morels.

  23. Mmmm…peaches. Just bought an entire bushel basket full today at the farmer’s market here in Asheville, NC – so dead-on ripe that it’ll be a race to eat/preserve them before they fall apart. They’re just as good as you remember.

  24. Ditto with Soni. Okanagan peaches, probably picked a day or two before they got to the market, so ripe I had to process them (canned, jam, eaten fresh…) within a couple of days before they squished…

    I’ve never really moved away from my hometown, but one thing I missed when I moved away from home (with a garden) was fresh peas and carrots. The ones they usually sell in the store are for cooking only. Thank goodness I now have a (tiny) garden of my own! (and the tomatoes I’m growing this year… I’ve been off store-bought tomatoes for years, but these exceeded my wildest expectations!)

    Side note for anyone who buys “field tomatoes” – from someone who worked in a grocery store, the bottom third of every box goes straight into the garbage. Rotten. Something to think about next time you’re in the produce section…

  25. WA peaches are just hitting farmer’s markets this week. I bought 2 at Pike Place this afternoon, and just ate the first– so ripe that the skin tore as I was (gently) lifting it out of the paper sack. But…

    Due to differences in climate, soil, day-length, et al, the varietals grown are often different than those grown in the south. Even peaches of the same variety will be significantly different. E.g. NW Redhaven peaches are smaller, firmer, and more tart, even when dead ripe, than Georgia Redhavens. Redhavens are early (and not very cold-hardy, btw)- that means they were available in May in Georgia, while ours are just getting to market this week, but they shouldn’t be treated the same. In the NW Redhavens are a canning peach; Southerners eat them straight.

    Ask your farmer’s market vendors or CSA about the varieties they are offering. Good choices in the PNW for eating fresh are Early Elberta, Elberta, Veteran, Harken, and Ranger. Polly is a good white peach. All will be firmer than Southern varieties for eating fresh, though. If you get a variety not on this list, it’s probably best for cooking/canning.

    /geek out

  26. For me its lye rolls (Laugenweck in german). The lye rolls of the Heilbronner region are to die for – crisp thin crust with a fluffy soft interior. They taste great just with a bit of butter.
    Here in Heidelberg, they also have lye rolls, but they are heavy, thick-crusted things – I haven’t bothered to buy them in years.
    Luckily it’s not too far, and my parents always bring lots when they come visiting :)

  27. BBQ anything. In California, people try to do BBQ pork or chicken, ribs, or whatever. They just can’t do it like the South, especially in North Carolina and Kentucky. Now if the chef is from the South or has spent any time in the South and has trained there, yeah, they can do BBQ. It’s hard to find the good stuff though. Add some creamed corn and cole slaw. Yum. Two other things people can’t cook here.

    I can’t drink sweet tea now. It almost puts me into shock. I used to live on the stuff while growing up.

  28. For me, it’s any strawberry that isn’t a Hood, and I’ve never found Hoods anywhere other than in Oregon at farmer’s markets/ farm stands. Taste like strawberry jam on a stem, make every other strawberry tase like gritty cardboard.

  29. No, I get it. I grew up in E. Tn. Moved 3624 miles from home to get away from the Dixie heat… but I miss my Waffle House, Po Folks, etc… and I remember the peaches. Taylor’s Peach Shed, Greer, SC. Peach capital of the free world. (Sorry, Georgia, you should be the Pecan State.)

    But you *can* get good peaches up here – in season! They should be in just now… if you can’t get’em in Portland, come up to Seattle, go to Socio’s in Pike Place, and ask for the Oh My Gods. This may be heresy, but they’re *better* than I remember the ones in SC being. I don’t know where they get them, but I know where they show up… surely *somebody* at the Market down there has’em, though; if they’re trucking them from Wenatchee or Yakima it’s not that much further to get’em to Portland than it is to Seattle.

    Good luck finding them! I know they’re out there…

  30. Growing up in the SF Bay Area I took fresh produce for granted. I still live here, but as a kid I never experienced a lack of fresh fruit in the summer. In particular, stone fruits. I was confused when I went to college and had people from out of state tell me they didn’t like peaches. How can someone dislike a peach? “They are sour, hard, and never ripen.” I dragged these sorry people to the farmers’ market twice a week to enlighten them. Or rather, I lightened the farmers’ loads whilst exclaiming over how awesome everything was while my friends watched in amusement.

    Then I discovered the Best Pesto Ever for sale at the farmer’s market in Pasadena. It’s ambrosia in an expensive little fresh-packed container and the makers also sell jam. The jam they sell online. The pesto they do not. I would buy approximately a pint per week and sometimes would finish it before the next weekend’s market. I moved back to the Bay Area and ran out of my frozen supply after a few weeks. Now every time one of my friends comes to visit me from LA, I have them go to a market in the area and buy up pesto to bring me. I schedule my trips around markets where I know it is sold. Such is the sad, sad fact of my addiction.

    Sourdough bread has regional flavors for sure, and I grew up with SF sourdough as a staple of my diet, as in I rarely had any other kind of bread. So when I’ve lived in places where the only sort is pre-sliced and packaged, which is just not the same, I want to cry. I mean, yeah, if I’m out in the desert in Nevada where I spend a lot of time, I’ll find myself missing food that isn’t diner food, like decent Chinese or Thai or Vietnamese or Mexican, but more than anything else, I’ll miss my bread.

  31. Montana: Chokecherries, tomatoes
    Idaho: Po-ta-toes
    Washington: Blackberries, Rainier Cherries, oh hell cherries, period. And strawberries from u-pick, mmmmm-mmmmmmmmm!
    Hawaii: Pineapple, Papaya, Lilikoi and Mango.
    The volcanic soil is everything.
    Yeah, my mom was southern, and she wouldn’t go just for any peach either.

  32. Ah, I almost forgot the only processed “fruit” here in California that has now been sold off to that big corporation…Scharffen-Berger Chocolate. It was the best, THE BEST, chocolate evar. And I’m talking about passing the Swiss, German, and Belgium tests too. It will never ever be the same with Hershey’s manufacturing it. Phffft!

  33. Since 1982, I’ve lived in Chicago, where all the locals think they have the world’s best pizza. Bah. The best pizza I’ve ever had is the kind I grew up with, apizza, in Connecticut. Makes Chicago-style taste like a bland casserole.

    And yeah, most food in Ohio is wretched, but Graeter’s ice cream is the best I’ve ever had.

  34. I grew up in Southern Indiana and worked in Kentucky. I remember eating giant juicy peaches over the sink, because eating them anywhere else was just way too messy. For the past twenty years I’ve lived in Upstate NY, and those giant juicy peaches are one thing I’ve truly missed. Before moving away from my home town / area it had never occurred to me that food was local. My first year away I was going on and on about delicious persimmon pudding and people thought I was nuts (as anyone would, who didn’t grow up in Southern Indiana). I was shocked to learn that persimmons were pig food up here, and nothing more.

  35. If you live in Florida, chances are you know someone with a citrus tree. Make friends with them…thank me later.

    I grew up in NJ and didn’t like oranges. Now I know why! There’s nothing like an orange straight off the tree.

  36. I grew up in Puerto Rico. I am not sure why you all all think Avocados look like that or taste like that, but you are wrong. And its very, very sad. You really are missing out on something special. The avocado in PR is a smooth skin thing that wouldn’t travel well at all. Sadly.

    And then there are mangoes. We had mango, lime, banana and avocado trees in the backyard. The thing I miss most is mango. You pick them off the ground or from the tree ripe and they are manna from heaven. The ones here are just plastic imitations.

    Finally, the bananas. We grew something call apple banana. It was sweeter, slightly tart and smaller than the bananas here. I don’t recall if that was sold in stores, or if it was just something people grew on their own.

  37. When I returned to the UK after a few years in the south of Spain I didn’t try another (after the first one) orange or lemon for a few years. The smell of an orange orchard in flower as the dawn warms them counts as food to me.

    The one I really miss is the loquat. Even the unripe fruit bruises and decays as soon as you look at it, though it is being imported here as a horrible tease. The scent and flavour straight off the tree is incomparable.

    Pomegranates eaten on the day they split open, in the mountains beyond Granada. Words fail me on those.

    Strangely I had the worst peaches I have ever tasted there. They were ripe but disgusting. They were called paraguayos, flat peaches to the English.

  38. Let’s see, Lemons from Portugal or New Zealand, nothing quite like a lemon straight off the tree. A very rare experience for me, but such a vivid memory.

    But from growing up, good beef, peaches, strawberries and tomatoes. I grew up in farm country Ohio, actually about 10 to 20 mins from where John lives and if you know where to look, the summer produce is amazing. Nobody there can cook it, but it’s still amazing. There was a local butcher in our town growing up who was fantastic. He went out of business around when I left for college.

    This year we’re growing tomatoes that look ridiculous (Plants are over 6 ft tall) go, go square foot gardening.

    Moved to New England and this is the first summer that it’s gotten properly hot enough for good peaches here. Still not as good as the fist sized ones growing up. I’m sure that I’ll miss the fantastic shellfish once I leave NE. Oysters in season. Mmmmmmm.

  39. Northern Illinois sweetcorn picked the morning you buy it. Eaten RAW. Then another ear cooked with so much butter and salt …. ah.

    Georgia can do great peaches but they can’t do sweetcorn worth a hoot.

  40. Linguiça

    Portuguese cured pork sausage seasoned with garlic, and paprika.

    I am from the Southeastern Massachusetts – the center of Portuguese America.

    You can buy it in stores in some places around the US but it just isn’t the same.

    The national brands grind the pork up into teeny tiny chunks and the majority of the fat is removed before grinding. Theu form them into hotdog like sized links.

    That ain’t Linguiça.

    Linguiça is chunks of pork with occasional chunks of pork fat (as Emeril says “Pork Fat Rules!!!!) spread throughout the big fat Italian sausage sized link.

    I had my folks ship it to me when I was living on the left coast. Now I have friends who used to live here and every year I send packages of good old fashioned hand made Linguiça from New Bedford to them for Christmas and they love me for it.

    Long Live Linguiça!!!

    (and pork fat!!!)

  41. Man, Mary, I feel for you; peaches are my favorite summer fruit. I just made a magnificent peach crumble the night before last, using New Jersey peaches I got from the farmers’ market. They ripen later here in NYC than I’m used to in the South, and they’re smaller, but once they’re ripe, they’re delicious.

    For me, the real struggle was seafood, when I lived in Boston. Oh, Boston had plenty of seafood, but I’d grown up along the Gulf Coast, eating crawfish etouffe and white shrimp and warm-water delicacies like smoked amberjack (“the ham of the sea”, according to folks down there… let’s not linger long on the idea of ham in the sea, tho’) and spiced blue crab. And I grew up having all this cooked creole-style, with a fusion of French cooking styles and Spanish spices and American Indian and African ingredients. I didn’t mind that Boston had different, colder-water seafood available — I quite like mussels and lobster — but what bugged me was that they didn’t seem to know what to do with it. For awhile it seemed as though every restaurant I went to just fried everything — no seasoning, just inch-deep bland batter, which I would peel off in revulsion. It was rare that I saw anyone use cooking techniques beyond steaming or frying. I did grow to love clam chowder and lobster bisque, but aside from that, I got a lot better at cooking my own seafood while I lived there.

  42. The next time I see you (btw, puppet show, full of awesome, sorry I didn’t get a chance to tell you while you were signing Aimee’s book, but I didn’t want to interrupt) we can both lament the lack of our respective favorite fruits here.
    For me, it’s nectarines.

  43. I lived in NJ longer than anywhere else, so it will always feel like ‘home’ to me. So, my ‘missing food’ is tomatoes. Picked when just perfectly ripe, sun-warmed outside, but inevitably just barely cool inside. So big, you needed two hands to hold one. And inside, the flavor of summer.

    I lived in NJ long enough that it was starting to disappear even there, but I remember when you could find that tomato everywhere. Farm stands on every rural road (and there were rural roads). Bigger farm stands on small highways. Your neighbor’s backyard. Your own backyard. Not grocery stores, but who cared?

    Now I live in SC, and it’s just not the same. Maybe it’s the soil, or the weather, but I haven’t had a really good tomato since I left NJ.

  44. Having grown up in Ontario, most of our peaches have been imported, with the exception of a small window of time in the late summer where I Niagara fruit belt peaches come into play. Recently I visited California and got some of those roadside, fresh off the tree peaches. They made me realize that I’d never known what real peaches were like. What I had experienced through most of my life were like peach flavoured potatoes.

  45. I had a California plum once, right off the tree. I couldn’t eat them from a store in the Midwest again for decades.

    I can’t imagine summer without Ohio strawberries, raspberries or sweet corn.

  46. My parents had a nectarine tree in the backyard when I was growing up. There is nothing like biting into a nectarine warm from the sun, and feeling the sweet, sticky juice run down your chin and dribble into the dirt below your bare feet.

    And the drifts of blossoms in the spring…

  47. @Jason Ramboz That was EXACTLY what I scrolled down here to post. It’s so good, and impossible to find in the States.

    While I was in the dorms at Gaidai, the house parents tried very patiently to teach me how to make it, but to absolutely no avail. I even bought a griddle when I got home and smuggled in bottles of okonomiyaki sauce. Didn’t help, I just can’t get it to work right.

  48. @20, yes totally

    @5, I live in MD and get crab rangoon all the time–however, it may be the quality of restaurant you’re going to–if its trying to be authentic Chinese, it won’t have all the US-born “chinese food” staples like Crab Rangoon

    @Mary–its the shipping procedure. They pick ‘em before they’re ripe so they won’t rot before they get there/get bought. Also, genetic fiddling to make them hardier, larger, etc make them less tasty. buy locally grown (or grow your own) and look for the smaller ones–they’re usually juicier and sweeter.

  49. Apples and Maple sugar candy.

    I moved to Florida ten years ago and still have yet to find a decent apple that I haven’t bought while I was on vacation in Michigan or had a family member/friend send me from my hometown in Michigan.

    Michigan apples have this thing about them. They’re fresh, like you’re peaches, off the tree. Yes. Tree. I have willingly driven across the country more times than once for the sole purpose of getting and eating as many Michigan apples as possible in the middle of October.

    As for the Maple sugar candy? I’ve flown through a snow storm in the middle of February just to get the candy and go home three days later. I’m that devoted. Or crazy. Yeah I guess I could be crazy.

  50. I just got back from the town where I grew up, Denver. While there I had tamales smothered in green chili sauce at Annie’s cafe. I almost cried. I know live in the East and there is NO good Mexican food (okay a couple places in Brooklyn, but I don’t live in Brooklyn anymore). In DC Salvadorans try to cook Mexican food and it just ain’t the same.
    That pork green chili…oh god.
    @Sara, my wife is Puerto Rican, and you are so right about the Avacados…totally different beast.

  51. Do you understand the anguish?

    Oh yeah. I grew up in Austin, TX and just West of there, past Johnson City, is the heart of the Texas Hill Country where they grow outstanding peaches. Used to pass thru towns like Stonewall and Fredericksburg in July and pick up baskets of them at roadside stands.

    Ah bliss…

  52. I’m form Poland and now I live in North Carolina and the lack of decent fruits is my biggest food woe. Yes, peaches are good right now, as good as back home but what about some variety?

    I’m probably spoiled as one stand in Farmer’s Market in Poland has more variety of fruit then most stores here. And one can buy on Farmer’s market more then tomatoes and whatever fruit that is ripe in the moment. Also for some reason Poland has one of the cheapest fruits both for the domestically grown like apples, cherries, plums and peaches and imported. Here I find most fruit either tasteless or too expensive or both.

    I miss cherries and plums most, especially since in Poland they come in dozens of varieties most of which haven’t even been heard of here. For example the greengage plums that I can eat in any quantity (or at least couple of kilograms). They may not look like much but they are one of the tastiest fruits ever.

  53. When I was growing up, in Sacramento, I wondered why kids were supposed to hate their vegetables. Then I moved to another state and found out why. It didn’t help that my dad had a garden and multiple fruit trees, so we had incomparable tomatoes, bell peppers, pomegranates*, apricots, figs, plums, peaches, cucumbers… and so on. No lettuce, though. I didn’t realize most people thought salad had to have lettuce until I was a teenager.

    Now I’ve moved back to the area and usually get a bounty from my parents. Not this year, though— some idiot brought in Oriental Fruit Fly and they’re in the quarantine area. Boo.

    *Pomegranates are ripe when they split. You will NEVER buy a ripe pomegranate, because that also makes them fragile and on the verge of rot.

  54. I once worked for a division of an advertising firm that placed ads in newspapers for their client companies. The newspapers from different regions would send gifts as a thank you. One summer we got a large box of peaches shipped from a newspaper in Atlanta, GA to our office in Pittsburgh, PA. As you can guess, many of the peaches didn’t survive the journey but the ones that did were some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

  55. @John Murphy

    My experience was pretty similar, and similarly frustrating. Tried to make it myself once or twice (when I could actually find the ingredients, or a close approximation) but no luck. It’s just not the same! Maybe I just need to kidnap a Japanese chef…

  56. Louisiana figs. We had a fig tree in our backyard when I was growing up and it produced the most amazing, sweet figs I’ve ever tasted. Nothing like them in NYC, where I lived for years, or in PA, where I live now.

  57. NC, SC and GA have decent peaches, but the Perfect Peach is found here in West Michigan — the Red Haven peach. It is too delicate to travel very far, though I’ve heard reports of Red Havens showing up in Chicago. Some of those are actually Glow Havens, a much lesser variety, sad to say.

    The Red Havens are here. We will buy some tomorrow. And we will enjoy them.

    Surprisingly this has been a great summer for fruit here in West Michigan — the apricots in particular have had all the promise that you seek in an apricot, without the sorry, mealy disappointment you normally get. Quite a surprise.

    Not trying to gloat here — so sorry for your loss, Mary.

    Dr. Phil

  58. Indeed. For me it’s Philly Cheese Steaks.

    Seriously, unless your shop is located IN Philly, or the Greater Philadelphia Area, it is apparently impossible to duplicate this food. I have gone to many shops throughout the country who claim to have a Philly steak, only to find it is a poor, oddly interpreted catastrophe. And my gods, don’t bother asking for sauce and onions, or the pimply kid behind the counter will look at you like you’ve grown another head, and then lamely offer you ketchup.

    KETCHUP?? Blasphemy!

  59. I grew up in Iowa and there are three things that have disappointed me when not local:
    1) Pork tenderloin sandwiches. In most places you just can’t find them and if they are there, they are pale imitations.
    2) Sweet corn — I once made the mistake of ordering corn in New York.
    3) Beef (as Andy@17 pointed out).

  60. This is not exactly a grown fruit, nor vegetable. But for perhaps two and a bit years I lived with my father in La Jolla while he went to UCSD for his masters. The sushi, on the times we visited sushi places near the shore, can not be replaced as a palattel experience.

    MMM.

    Although wasabi is an engaging experience it is no substitute for freshness of the catch :-(

    These comments need a map of all the various foods and locations.

  61. When my older children were growing up we lived in Fairbanks, Alaska. There was never decent produce. But, Alaska is close to Japan. Around Thanksgiving every year the Japanese Mandarin oranges (sometimes called Christmas oranges) would be flown in. These were sweet as candy and nothing like what is sold as Mandarins or Clementines in the lower 48. We left Alaska in 1982 pre-internet and I thought I would never see real mandarin oranges again. Recently, I’ve searched the internet thinking there must be somewhere I can order them from. They must still be grown in Japan and imported somewhere, however all I’ve found is other searchers bemoaning the loss of the Japanese Christmas orange. I wonder if it is a strain that has died out. I can’t read Japanese and can’t go to Japanese sites to search for these oranges. I wonder if they are still out there anywhere.

  62. Manhattan Clam Chowder.

    Can’t find it for spit now, either in restaurants or in stores, now that I left NYC. I’m not a good enough cook to make it from scratch–yet.

  63. I’m going to jump back in and mention Dates and Pistachios.
    Specifically, Iraqi dates and Pistachios. I spent a lot of my Navy time in the Persian Gulf area and you could by the most wonderful dates in the world at the duty free stores or in the markets in Bahrein. Iraqi dates are the gold standard though. Until I had them, I didn’t like dates. Now, back in the states, meh.
    Pistachios. Wow, a 1 kilo back for around $3.50US. Red or white, faaantastic!

    I almost forgot the 600 varieties of melons. Delicious.

  64. Ok, I’ve just gone through all 67 posts and now I’m STARVING. And it’s an hour until lunch. AAAARGH!

  65. I live in SoCal and there are quite a few things I don’t like about it, like the freeways and smog, but man, let me tell you, the farmer’s markets here? Stupendous.

    I have two by my house on different days. Can I tell you how amazing it is to be able to get fresh, locally grown organic produce multiple times a week, all year round? Awesome.

    As it stands, I have a gigantic, fresh, organic California peach my wife bought yesterday at one of the markets sitting on my desk. It smells like summer.

  66. This thread started with peaches so I’ll bring it back to that… as with many other members of the rose family, peach seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, including amygdalin (note the subgenus designation: Amygdalus). These substances are capable of decomposing into a sugar molecule and hydrogen cyanide gas. While peach seeds are not the most toxic within the rose family (that dubious honour belongs to the bitter almond) large doses of these chemicals from any source are hazardous to human health. Just a thought.

  67. MVS @ 71, one of the stories of the death of King John Softsword was that he was poisoned by a “surfeit of peaches”. Probably it was dysentery or deliberate poisoning. He was rather hated.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_of_England

    Personally I only eat the soft flesh of the peach which, if it has any cyanide at all, it is insignificant. (Sweet) Almonds are the ones for eating as nuts. Which reminds me of another lovely thing I had in Spain, the undried almond straight off the tree. Lovely but not as good as the undried fresh hazelnuts we get here. Soft, crisp, milky goodness.

    A happier association for peach lovers is King Monkey. The Peaches of Heaven that ripen at intervals of thousands of years and give long life to those who eat them.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Wukong

  68. Tomatoes. I grew up in Indiana and my granddad had a garden and grew the best Beefsteak tomatoes. But any Indiana tomato will do. I’ve lived in Arizona for the last 11 years and while none of the produce here measures up to the Midwest, tomatoes are what I miss the most.

  69. We are now in the height of mango season, and our neighbor’s tree is shelling us with ripe mangoes. As long as I can get to them before the birds and bugs, a ripe mango is on a par with a peach for juicy sweet succulence. You won’t find a properly ripe one in Ohio, though; the imports there are all underripe and turpentine-y.

    OTOH, a proper MacIntosh apple is all but impossible to find west of the Rockies. Where I am, that lack includes peaches and most other stone fruit. The ones we get are mealy, sour, underripe, and nasty. Apples come from New Zealand, and are merely adequate.

  70. Grew up in New York, so for me it’s the cliched ones: pizza and bagels. It does seem that people in some parts of the country don’t actually know what a bagel *is*. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not just round bread with a hole in the middle. A real bagel should be chewy and dense, not fluffy.

    @Lunamoth: I hear you on cheesesteaks. Didn’t grow up in Philly, but spent my college years there. I really think it’s the bread. Philly’s bakeries are wonderful.

    @everyone else: Have you noticed the opposite of the original question? Have you traveled somewhere, fallen in love with the food, and then been very disappointed that you can’t have that flavor like that any more back at home?

  71. I grew up in NYC and now live in DC. I don’t miss anything specific really, but growing up in NY, everyone’s Jewish, even when they aren’t and it is really easy to get kosher food, kosher for passover products and certain things I’ve always considered deli staples. I’m really reform and don’t keep kosher except for passover, but I do miss the insane variety of kosher for passover products NYC offered. Even though the DC/VA/MD area has a substantial Jewish population, it’s just not the same. In NYC, I never had to go looking for kosher for passover Coca-cola (the good stuff with real sugar) because all the stores stocked it. And no one here seems to carry fresh halvah. I do miss that. Although given that it’s like a billion calories a sliver, it’s probably just as well. It’s just that my aunt always used to get a brick of it from a bakery for dessert at the seder and I have very fond memories associated with it.

  72. Corn. Great Chukulteh on a Bicycle, these people on the West Coast don’t know what a freaking ear of corn is supposed to taste like.

  73. #36 Xoinx – I’ll see your Graeter’s Ice Cream and raise you Jeni’s. On our yearly Columbus, OH trip we always make time for a Jeni’s run.

    My husband grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan while I’m a SE lower Peninsula gal. When we were dating, we went out for sea food one day and I was all excited about the whitefish. He was less than enthusiastic because “If it wasn’t pulled from the lake this morning it just doesn’t taste good.” I teased him for months about his fish snobbery until we went on our first road trip to the UP. They have this little fishery in his home town that you can buy whitefish caught that morning and they are the Best! Thing! Ever!

  74. @Sara (#39): I was going to post the exact same thing! I grew up in Puerto Rico too and miss so many foods. I’m not crazy about bananas, but I love guineos manzanos. We had a bunch of bananos growing in our yard as well as incredibly fruitful avocado trees. The fruit that I miss the most: quenepas!!! I’ve had dreams so vivid I woke up still feeling the way the shell snaps when you bite it and the way the fruit feels when you first pop it in your mouth.

  75. May I say, I am impressed y’all haven’t started a BBQ jihad? People are really attached to the kind
    of BBQ they grew up with.

    Now, me, I miss the Australian foods….Mum was
    one and took me to visit the family several times.
    Meat pies, sausage rolls, Lamingtons and ANZAC
    biscuits must all be Made By Hand if one lives in
    the US —- and even then, the sausage isn’t quite
    right. sigh.

    I’ve got used to embracing whatever fruit/veg is
    local because if it ain’t local, it ain’t worth tasting.
    Huckleberries in Idaho, sweet corn and cherries in
    Maryland, Papaya in Australia and Thailand. Yum.

    PS We had some mostly ripe peaches after sailing
    last Monday, down in Annapolis. Good but not
    great. My sympathies, Mary

  76. I miss fresh sweet corn. I grew up in Ohio (and didn’t hate it there! Blasphemy!) and there are corn fields everywhere. We’d have sweet corn on the cob once or twice a week during the summer, so fresh it couldn’t have been picked more than a day earlier. Then I grew up and moved south…where their idea of “corn on the cob” is just sad. I can’t eat it.

  77. boo @79: ask him how he feels about smelt.

    Laura @82: it’s worse out West. You ask people about bicolor corn and they look at you like you’re referring to some kind of sex toy.

  78. New York bagels. They aren’t the same anywhere else. Crust that’s a little crisp, but very chewy, fragrant interior that smells of yeast and malt, soft, but sturdy. Served with a schmear of cream cheese, lox, tomatoes, onions, and capers.
    Maryland tomatoes, ripe enough to split, and so sweet.
    Sichuan food, hot, complex, with the numbing taste of the sichuan peppercorns.
    Sushi. You can’t get the really good stuff outside of Japan or New York.
    Indian mangoes, which are a lot like the peaches everyone’s raving about.

  79. Here in NE Ohio we have some good peaches, but I had one in NC at the NASFIC and, in Mr Tucker’s words, it was smooooooth.

  80. In Chicago, it was my grandfather’s tomatoes grown on the postage stamp of a yard wedged between the garage and ally. They are the benchmark by which I compare all tomatoes today.

    In Nashville, it was two things. Mrs. White’s strawberries. I never knew strawberries could taste like that! Small, sweet and flavorful. Plain or in a pie, I think I injured myself I ate so many.

    Second, the peaches. We could actually walk to a peach orchard. Those were excellent peaches, but the best one I ever had was one that grew in our own yard. Not unlike James and the Giant Peach, the tree produced just a single peach one year. And when it was ripe we gathered around and sliced it. The taste was indescribable. It was as if the tree put every ounce of flavor and juice it could muster into that single peach.

    Where we live now, I’d have to say the crabs are hard to beat…

  81. I’d offer to send you peaches from Georgia, but it’s late in the season and they’re getting a little tired around here, don’t think they’d travel too well.

    I grew up in Western New York. What I miss are the fall crops of apples, winter squash and stacks of pumpkins as high as a house around Halloween. More kinds of fresh-picked apples than you can imagine 10 minutes from the house I grew up in.

    Well, that and the fresh picked sweet corn our neighbor used to bring us this time of year. He’d call my mom about supper time and tell her to put on the corn pot, he was heading out to pick corn and he’d be right over. OMG!

  82. Oh, and Graham @5, there are several places here in Atlanta I eat at regularly and all have excellent Crab Rangoon.

    Hmmm…Now I’ll have to order Chinese this weekend!

  83. Apples. I miss decent apples. I grew up seeing an orchard dotted with Holsteins through the kitchen window in upstate NY. No one has figured out how to grow an apple in Ohio. The winters just don’t get cold enough.

  84. For me, growing up in western Wisconsin meant fresh squeaky cheese curds and fresh store made bratwurst.

  85. You should move into the country; I hear that way you get to eat a lot of peaches…

    I’ll try not to feel too smug due to living in the Peach State. (Well, technically, we’re the Empire State of the South, but everyone calls us the Peach State nonetheless, and the peach is our official state fruit…)

  86. When I lived in Oregon the peaches from around Medford and Roseburg were bloody good. I also have fond memories of picking strawberries and cherries and the folks looking at my siblings and I and joking should we weight the kids too because our faces were smeared with the fruit we were picking.

    Now I am in New Mexico and let me tell you. Going out of state sucks! Why? It is impossible to get good green chili. New Mexicans have two freezers, one for green chili and the other for everything else. I’m down to my last bag of XX-hot from last year. Good thing too, the first wave of chili’s are starting to show up and soon the scent of roasting chili’s will fill the air of every town.

  87. nobody thinks of Central Nebraska in terms of produce, but one area just north of Grand Island has the perfect soil for melons. The watermelons and canteloupe (which my grandmother called muskmelons) are to die for. They are so cheap and so plentiful that you simply take them for granted. When my wife and I moved to Ohio for grad school, we were shocked at the lesser quality of the melons.

  88. Have you ever tried peaches from Hood River? They can be pretty good, and there are some orchards hidden among the filbert orchards outside Molalla. I just picked about 80lbs (red havens) for canning from a place around there and they are really good. For eating, I got some suncrests as well.

  89. I heard all my life about how Georgia peaches are the most wonderful in the world. Finally got my hands on a nice fresh one, only to find out that it had the color and flavor of paper.

    YUKK!

  90. @Xoinx — mmmm, Graeter’s ice cream… dark chocolate raspberry…oh yeah…. had some shipped here to Northern Virginia as a wedding gift for some friends years ago…it’s THAT good!

  91. I take deep offense, madam. Oregon has wonderful peaches that fit every criteria you describe. I can only guess you don’t know where to look.

    Olsen Farms near Salem has delicious peaches, as does Grampa’s Farm near Albany. I’ll be visiting them in a few days.

  92. The best peaches in the northwest, like the best (peaches, apricots, sweet corn, strawberries, raspberries) anywhere, are not the ones you buy out of sight of the field they’re grown in: the best peaches I’ve had locally (Southern Puget Sound) grow on the seedling cling peach tree that my sister has espaliered on the south wall of her house, above a two-car driveway slab, its roots in a narrow sliver of steep and hot soil. The best apricots were from my great-aunt’s geriatric Moorpark, in the back yard of her Yakima house.

    The best raspberries, for welcome freshness and rarity are the last handful around Hallowe’en from the Autum Bliss canes in my west yard.

    The tastes I miss, from my childhood, survival foods then and luxuries now: Hood Canal spot prawns, Olympia oysters, Dungeness crabs fresh from the water and still hot from the boil. Quinault blueback sockeye, winter steelhead, geoduck ground into clear not-chowder with onion and celery and waxy finger potatoes (or canned new potatoes, my grandmother’s favorite). Beach-run clams, manilas and butternecks, steamed and eaten with melted butter.

    Bing cherries fresh from the front-yard tree, Royal Anne cherries too fragile almost to pick, greengage plums from the twisted old tree, dripping honey, the last gravenstein apples after the first frost, starting to ferment in its own skin and snapping to the bite.

    Kindly-raised grass-fed beef, dry-aged for twenty days and custom cut, which is the product of the farm where I live and which I cannot, at this juncture, afford to eat.

  93. My parents old neighbors in S. CA. had a peach tree at the edge of their yard which hung over into our yard. In the summer I would get out of the pool and grab a warm peach off the tree. A few years after I left home, the neighbors cut down seeming every living thing in the yard. I was stunned at the sacrilege.

    I had never before and never since tasted the like. On very rare occasions I was able to get peaches that tasted close or ripened to a close taste. But I’ve gotten so many duds (even from farmer’s markets) that I’ve largely given up. I want to plant a peach tree but the ones that grow best where I live are white peaches and I far prefer the yellow peaches. But I may plant one anyway.

  94. Sorry, all you PNWesters. I’ve tried peaches from the farmer’s market, and even actually on the farm but have only ever had gotten decent peaches. I’ve yet to have a perfect peach of the style I grew up with. I’ll try the suggestions you’ve made but I moved out there seventeen years ago and pretty much only shop at the farmer’s markets or through our CSA. I am dubious of success but the goal is worthy of the risk. I’ll report back.

    @ 39 Sara: I hear you on the apple bananas. When I was in India, one of the families we were visiting gave us some bananas cut from the tree in their courtyard and it was a transcendent experience.

    @46 Michael_B: I’m glad you liked the puppet show! I’ve had better luck with Nectarines than with peaches.

  95. Kowal, peaches suck in South Korea. I miss Canada’s Niagara Fruit Belt. South Korea has great Jeju pears, though, so . . .

  96. Yes, totally, Southern Peaches FTW! Sadly, I just figured out from reading this why I liked peaches growing up but now don’t care for them at all.

    Michigan apples (some other places can make a decent apple, but NOT MANY) and Michigan blueberries…

    And I didn’t know what a strawberry truly was until I ate feral/wild/heirloomy ones, first in North Carolina (they grew near my bus-stop, over by Bennett Place, but also along the Eno River), later in France. The difference being that they actually sell “woods-strawberries” in France at markets, and they aren’t sold anywhere I’ve seen in the USA.

  97. The thing about strawberries… is big is usually worse, unless you’re trying to do something with color or texture. Essentially (not literally, not precisely) a strawberry has a certain amount of flavor, regardless of its size (though, it varies by cultivar) and the bigger it is, the more diffuse that flavor becomes. Buy your strawberries small, convince everybody to sell smaller, tastier strawberries!

    Far upthread, regarding Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki. I hear that! And I haven’t even left Japan. Just moved to Tokyo, where they basically can’t get it right. I’m sure there’s a Hiroshima transplant Okonomiyaki shop somewhere in Tokyo… but it’s a bit daunting to search a city this size!

    As far as sushi goes, you can get REALLY good, high quality sushi in tons of places. Not just Japan, New York, and Los Angeles. You just have to be willing to pay for it. (And beware that not all places that charge a lot of money are actually dishing up good stuff.) I’m sure it’s used somewhere in America, but I never found real wasabi! Most places just flavor some horseradish and call it even, *boo*

  98. 67: Yeah, Manhattan Clam Chowder has largely been purged from restaurant menus thanks to the tireless bitching of New England Clam Chowder purists, who pursued its systematic de-legitimization and eventual elimination with near-fascistic zeal. I’ve conducted a number of experiments, combining various cookbook recipes to replicate different restaurant variations on Manhattan clam I remember from my childhood and youth, with some degree of actual success.

    84: I’ll put the sushi here (Vancouver, though it’s probably of the rest of the PNW) up against any other outside of Japan, and I think that the Japanese tourists, students and residents who flock to the cheaper-than-home-but-of-comparable-quality deals would back that up.

  99. I’m looking at/snacking from the bowlful of white nectarines that I picked yesterday evening. (I know, not as good as yellow, but I didn’t buy the tree) The apricots from a neighbor’s tree that hangs in my yard have long since been eaten, and the plums will be ready to pick in about a week.

    I’ve become a seasonal fruit shopper, due to the good farmer’s markets in my area. Now is stone fruit time, and in a month, I’ll start on the apples. Citrus waits for winter, especially around December when the Satsumas kick in.

    Try David Mas Masumoto’s work on growing specialty fruits- the first is called Epitaph for a Peach.

  100. @Cathym #77

    If you’re willing to venture a bit outside of DC, Silver Spring, MD has a substantial Jewish population. I grew up around there, and my memories are pretty much like you describe. It might be a smaller pocket than you get in NYC, but hey, it’s still a pocket!

  101. Even beyond ‘local’ – there is one stand at my local farmer’s market that has by far the best peaches. The whole area (SF Bay Area) has good peaches, but this one stand must have the right variety because they have these perfect small yellow peaches that I can eat by the dozen. This year they had a small crop and sent all their peaches to the farmer’s market in the other part of town, so I didn’t get any… next year I’ll have to pay closer attention.

    Living in the Bay Area, I’ve gotten spoiled on good Asian food. Chinese food especially; every time I go to an ‘Oriental Buffet’ somewhere in the midwest it breaks my heart just a little…

  102. I came to rant about how much I miss cheese curds, only to see Leif (#90) beat me to it! I live in NM now, and one day thought I could probably get cheese curds from Dairy Queen. But you can’t. Only in Wisconsin.

    Silly New Mexico.

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