Monday, August 5, 2013

Matters of Taste: Celebrating the Season in California with a Delicious and Easy Summer Recipe from Alice B. Toklas

Season of Mellow Fruitfulness, Close Bosom-Friend of the Maturing Sun

It’s summer in California, and we are in the middle of an especially fragrant and delicious stone-fruit season. Cherries, peaches, plums, apricots, and nectarines and all of my favorites are ripe and juicy and tumbling into our local farmers’ markets.

So I’m taking a little detour from design and travel to offer you a delicious and surprising recipe. It's by Alice B. Toklas (no, it is not her famous Haschich Fudge…perhaps you have that already in your files).

And I’ve found a lovely poem about peaches—watch for that after the recipe.

Come with me for a delicious detour—and a feast of stone fruit photographs by the fantastically talented and stylish New York photographer Paulette Tavormina. 

Peaches & Morning Glories, After G.G. 2010

Tender and honey-flavored white peaches; delicate white nectarines; pale golden peaches grown in the Sierra foothills; and crimson plums from Santa Rosa, are all at their most juicy and seductive now.

I’ve added a recipe below from ‘The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook’ for you. As you know, San Francisco-born Alice was the companion of Gertrude Stein. Alice and her family used to live in a Victorian house overlooking Alta Plaza, a marvelous pyramid-shaped park in Pacific Heights, and a few minutes walk from where I live.

Alice B. Toklas, now a legendary figure in the art and literary worlds, was asked to write a cookbook, and it was a sensation when it was published. Among the many excellent recipes was one for Haschich Fudge (her spelling). I’m sure you have your own recipe, so no need to print hers.

In her book it’s listed as ‘Haschich Fudge’ and she adds a note ‘which anyone could whip up on a rainy day’. Worth noting: her recipe for fudge involves black peppercorns, nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander. 

Fruit Basket, After M.M.d.C. 2011

Yellow Cherries & Crab Apples, After G.G. 2010

Wild Raspberries, After G.G. 2013

Back to peaches:

Alice’s easy recipe for Peaches Glacées--

I think you’ll like it. Let me know.

I love the way Alice leaves much of this recipe up to your own creativity. Make it your way, be creative and have fun.

Alice B. Toklas’s Peaches Glacées

From ‘The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook’


Put 6 fine ripe peaches in hot water only long enough to peel.

Prepare a syrup of 1 cup of sugar and ¾ cut water.

Poach the whole peaches covered in the syrup over a low heat for 4 minutes.

Remove peaches and drain. Reduce the syrup and when it is quite thick, after three minutes further cooking, pout over peaches. Baste. See that it adheres. When cold, place peaches stem side down on a serving platter in refrigerator for at least two hours.

Prepare of purée of 1 lb fresh ripe strawberries, ¼ cup icing sugar, and add 2 tablespoons of best brandy and 1 cup whipped cream in blender. Put in refrigerator for two hours.

Before serving, pour purée over peaches.

Enjoy it. Perfect for a summer evening outdoors in the garden or on the terrace, or the beach. A scoop of strawberry or lavender ice-cream could be a lovely addition. And I hope, you might experience the deliciousness of the peaches as the ‘euphoria and ecstatic reveries’ Alice B. Toklas said she experienced from her ‘Haschich Fudge’. 

Pears 2008

Red Cherries & Plums, After G.G. 2011

In honor of the season—and for inspiration—I found this poem by an American poet I admire. It is a gift to you, with thanks for joining me on this great blogging adventure.

A Poem by Li-Young Lee

From Blossoms 

From blossoms comes 

this brown paper bag of peaches 

we bought from the boy 

at the bend in the road where we turned toward 

signs painted Peaches. 

From laden boughs, from hands, 

from sweet fellowship in the bins, 

comes nectar at the roadside, succulent 

peaches we devour, dusty skin and all, 

comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat. 

O, to take what we love inside, 

to carry within us an orchard, to eat 

not only the skin, but the shade, 

not only the sugar, but the days, to hold 

the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into 

the round jubilance of peach. 

There are days we live 

as if death were nowhere 

in the background; from joy 

to joy to joy, from wing to wing, 

from blossom to blossom to 

impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Paulette Tavormina


Images here are all by Paulette Tavormina
The beautiful images illustrating this story are by the New York photographer, Paulette Tavormina. They are used her with her express permission.

Paulette says:

“Growing up in a Sicilian family, food was the central focus of our gatherings. The lively conversations, preparation, and creation of every feast was as important as the celebration of sitting down together and breaking bread. The legacy of these culinary traditions is emblematic of my life and textures my work.

In the 1990s, when I was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a close friend introduced me to seventeenth century still life painters, including Giovanna Garzoni and Maria Sibylla Merian. Around the same time, my work as a commercial photographer was beginning to develop. The sensuality of the Old Masters and the technicality of photography appeals to me; in my photographs, I am directly inspired by classic natura morta imagery and the abundance of perfectly imperfect flowers, fruits, and vegetables that I find in the markets.

Living in New York now, I am in the habit of searching for ladybugs, butterflies, and flower buds as I walk through the city streets. I frequent the farmers markets and flower markets with their vibrant, colorful bounty. At Sotheby’s, where I photograph works of art, I collect images, textures, and light with my mind’s eye. In my studio, I compile items from my personal collection with flora and fauna and borrowed antique objects to create romantic vignettes inspired by the Old Masters. The hidden secrets within my pictures allow me to return to and savor moments in time.

These still lifes, with their careful balance of old world antiquity and my European ancestry, are a modern and verdant story about love among chaos, the tenderness of life, seizing precious moments and the inevitable passage of time.” 

Sour Cherries, After G.G. 2011

Paulette Tavormina:

You can also find her images at MARCH, Sacramento Street, San Francisco and Robert Klein Gallery, Boston.

Fruit & Roses, After I.S. 2010


Karen Albert said...

Dear Diane,

Paulette's artistic skills are superb! They belong in a museum!

The Peaches Glacee's recipe from Alice sounds delicious!

2013 Designer Series

helen tilston said...

Hello Diane,

Those images of the still live stone fruits are superb and how beautifully arranged ready for an artist to paint. The lady bug on the fruit is appealing. Thank you for providing this delicious recipe.

Parisbreakfasts said...

Just exquisite in everyway
Her photographs are sumptuous
Plus the poem and the recipe
Isn't THIS a book?
I'd buy it.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Karen and Helen-

You are right--Paulette's work belongs in a museum.

She does show at galleries and some of them are listed on her website.

best DIANE

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Carol-

Yes, a book.

Paulette's work--which so beautifully references the Dutch Masters--is absolutely perfect in its style and perfection. She's not merely 'copying' but rather taking the paintings and going much further into another realm. Her style and elegance bring it all into the present day. Each petal, every detail, every placement are all perfect.
Carol--I send you my best from California to Paris!
Thank you for your lovely comments, DIANE

Windlost said...

Hi Diane, oh the recipe looks divine. You had me with the peaches but that puree of strawberries, icing sugar, whipped cream and brandy sounds like it might be life-altering. We are getting lots of great California and western Canadian produce in stores here now, so every day I am eating peaches and nectarines and plums too.

I love the poem. What a perfect line, "the round jubilance of peach". The peaches in paper bags reminded me of my father, who was always picking something not quite ripe from the garden (tomatoes mostly) and putting it in the cupboard in a paper bag to ripen. :)

And Paulette Tavormina is a genius. I wonder if she finds a lot of butterflies on the street in New York? But there must be bounty for her at the farmer and flower markets! I'd love to visit her studio.

A lovely wandering post that has got me thinking in all sorts of directions...

Thanks Diane!

xo Terri

Tracey Kessler said...

Thank you for the wonderful design inspiration so needed. A lesson in design history and vast styles brought together. Your San Francisco design tours are the best!

Your blog is inspiring my latest series for sure.