Seeing as I have already devoted a silly amount of space here to waxing poetic about the stone fruit in Washington State in August, I will restrain myself today. Suffice to say, the peaches are beautiful. What do you do with forty pounds of ripe peaches (similar to what you do with a drunken sailor, but less chest shaving)? Wrong question. What don’t you do with them?
This irrefutable rabbit hole of reasoning led me to a recipe that involves grilled peaches, toasted hazelnuts, a wisp of honey, fresh mint and… blue cheese. Now, this combination does not cause me angst. I admire the French and their deep appreciation, nay, love of cheese, the more pungent the better. But my attempts to instill Francophilic manners in my little covey of quail have come up short for one solid, irrevocable reason: the blue cheese soup.
It happened, dark day that it was, when we were farming apples in Othello, WA. I will admit to never being much for measuring, and generally a cursory glance at a recipe is sufficient to get the thing accomplished in an edible manner. Did you know that Stonewall Jackson was so zealous to preserve his eyesight, that he might never be deprived of the comfort and joy of reading the Holy Scriptures, that he held himself to strict rules about the length of time he would permit himself to read, and never in the evening, lest his eyesight weaken under the strain of “overuse”? I think he would have cooked the way I do. I have been told by folks who did not yet know me well that I must be a cook, not a baker. Apparently, cooks just fling their ingredients about with reckless disregard for rules and regulations, for weights and measurements, whereas true bakers level off their measuring cups with the edge of a knife and weigh their baking powder.
Heh. Not so, Garcon. I prefer baking to cooking and the main reason I don’t scrape off my measuring cups is because I don’t generally use them.
This method, if you can call it that, has served me well in my kitchen adventures since becoming a wife and mother. But on that fateful autumn day, the air having started its slow descent into chill, I went to create an evening meal that would be both comforting, and also new. I was taking my cues from a cookbook borrowed from a friend — one that, I now know, she had never so much used. Blue cheese soup, with a celery stock base, sounded unusual but what rich flavors to infuse our fall evening with warmth and interest! The problem is, if you only use a portion of a wedge of a blue cheese, then you have to store the rest of the smelly stuff in the fridge and the next thing you know, that secret plastic container full of fudgy brownies that you’ve had tucked behind the wheat germ has a faint but distinctly unpleasant odor of rotting gym sock. I am attached to that box of brownies. I guard such things zealously.
So, obviously, I chucked the entire wedge of blue cheese into the soup.
In the house of Braendlein, we run on a different clock. In the beginning, we had children who went to bed quite early, and there were feeding tube pumps to make and medicines to prepare (who am I kidding — this is still true), so we would feed them dinner first and then the Beloved and I would eat dinner after they all went to bed. This tradition has stuck, and we like it. It means I get to read to the kids while they eat dinner, and it means that every night is date night. It also means the young quail double as young guinea pigs when there are new recipes afoot.
It was unlike them to make faces. They might not have been fantastic eaters at this stage, but they had been raised not to make gagging noises over the food (that was a surefire way to be “offered” seconds), so I was surprised at their visceral response to the soup. I thought it smelled a little tangy, to be sure, but what could you expect? My husband was also curious, so he dipped into a child’s bowl… and the soup nearly hit the wall, such was his spit take.
Come, come, people! Have a heart! The cook is sitting right here! I grabbed a spoon, determined to show them what gutless little gastronomic weasels they were all being and why I was surely justified in feeling my pride stung…
Dang. That was some seriously disgusting soup. Bad sign when, upon dumping the entire pot into the scrap pile on the edge of the yard and the orchard, it attracted neither pets, nor coyotes and rodents, and the crew appeared to avoid working in that block for days. This was a gaff I have not yet been allowed to forget, and rightly so.
And yet — here lies the blue cheese, Roquefort to be precise, prepared to be sprinkled atop a perfectly ripened, grilled peach. What can account for ever going back to a thing that burned me so badly last time? Well… because God doesn’t throw away the rot. He cleans it, makes it new, declares a new cheese, a flavor never before seen that will bless a body.
We are not good at that, are we? Once burned by a friend, a church, a loved one, a job, we stiffen our resolve and declare the thing bad, not fit for consumption, not merely that one time, but ever. This is not a call to abandon discernment, wisdom, or honesty. It is rather a call to be honest about ourselves, about hurt feelings we have allowed to cure and fester, about grudges that we may be holding in the name of self-protection, or the good of the community, or whatever other creative excuse is leaping to mind right about now.
Go on. Rehab the blue cheese.