Guys, do you remember that amazing TV show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman? What am I talking about – of course you remember it, because it was awesome. You can go watch the opening song here, and then come back when you’re done.
Do you know what I love most about Dr. Quinn? Not the fact that Sully could solve any problem by throwing a tomahawk into whatever was being disputed, not the fact that Dr. Quinn hit that perfect balance between girly East coast girl and cutting edge feminist, and not the fact that the storyline was always centered around riveting plot twists like buying the teacher a fancy Bible or something. No. What I love is how everyone brought food around with them the way that we bring our iphones or whatever. Dr. Quinn was paid in food for her services more times than I could count. Pies, jams, loaves of bread just appeared – the de facto currency of Colorado Springs in the late 1800s.*
In that world, I could be a robber baron. In this one, I hope to some day teach their snobby children French.
Sometimes I think my mom is actually Dr. Quinn. No, she doesn’t treat lots of scurvy, or wounds inflicted from wolves/skirmishes with Indians. She also hasn’t delivered her own baby after several nights spent in the woods. But she does receive a lot of food. Her patients were always bringing her food, and she in turn would bring it home to us.
One of her long-time patients was a woman named Bernice, a woman who was the embodiment of southern grace and Kentucky charm. A key component of said grace and charm was that she was always showing up at our house with peach cobbler. I love cobbler. Any cobble. It is this perfect blend of fruit and cake, topped off with creamy ice cream. But I especially love this cobbler, because it is sweet and tart, gooey with a crispy top, and incredibly easy to make. Oh, and it is made out of peaches. PEACHES. We are in high peach season right now and I can’t get enough of them. I actually got stressed the other day about how to make and eat all the peach desserts I want to try before peach season ends. If summer had one taste, it might just that of a peach. Or pink lemonade. Or maybe hotdogs grilled outside. Ok, so I guess summer cannot be limited to just one taste, but still – peaches definitely rank high on the list.
The summer before I got married, Bernice brought multiple peach cobblers by our house. I think she knew that my parents had all the complex emotions of marrying off their only daughter, and nothing helps complex emotions like peach cobbler. Yes, this is illogical. But in the south we know that the act of bringing someone food isn’t actually about the food itself. It is a way of saying, “I wish I could help you in whatever way you need helped. But I can’t, so instead I stood in my kitchen all morning thinking about you and here are my thoughts, baked and bubbly and ready to be smothered in ice cream.” I asked for the recipe right after moving to DC and I made it for James last year for his birthday. It felt like having just a little bit of Kentucky hospitality in my DC kitchen.
Bernice passed away last year. She had lived one of those best lives, the type that might not be noticed by the media or noted in any annals of society, but is felt deeply by those that knew her. I want to live one of those lives, marked by the constant extension of quiet, unpretentious hospitality. I thought of her as I was making the cobbler this year. I thought of her generosity, her kindness, and her understanding that showing up with a peach cobbler can do a world of good.
Bernice’s Peach Cobbler
- Peel and slice peaches. How many? Enough. You can never have too many peaches. My peaches were not super ripe, so I let them sit tossed in a couple spoonfuls of sugar. If yours are juicy and ripe, you won’t need this step. Pour peaches into greased 9×13 inch dish.
- Cut crusts off of white bread and arrange in criss-cross pattern over peaches.
- Mix together 3 Tablespoons flour, 2 eggs, 1 stick melted butter and 2 cups sugar and pour over cobbler.
- Bake at 350 until bubbly, with the bread a golden brown, approximately an hour.
- Let sit for about 45 minutes before serving.
*In fairness to accuracy, there was finally an episode where the good doctor started laying down the law and asking to be paid in money. She just didn’t know what a good thing she had coming.