The Weekend Dish – Creeping Crust Cobbler

… A Creeping Crust Cobbler Recipe and story

Apricots, like most good things, require patience.  The tree stands barren through winter’s chill while you are left to remember and dream, to wait and hope the small fruit arrives by the buckets come summer.

There are many things like an apricot.

Crystal Cove, CA

 A California sunset, for example.  Or, as Deborah Slicer writes in her poem, “Apricot,” “The weight of a small child’s fist, / a girl…”

Apricot Girl with her Nana who made the family’s first Creeping Crust Cobbler.

In our family it was a girl who inspired Nana, the Backyard Sisters’ mom and grandmother to 10, to turn a bumper crop of apricots into Creeping Crust Cobbler, now a summer dessert staple in all the sisters’ homes.

It was the blazing hot summer of 1987 and Nana had come to stay with Catherine who had just given birth to a son.  Nana made a tradition of spending a week with her daughters whenever a new baby was born. One of the joys of this time was getting an extended visit with the older children in the house, and one of the Apricot Girl’s favorite things was picking up fallen fruit from the ground.

Apricots were one of Nana’s favorite fruits and she knew there was something better to be done with this backyard gift than throwing them for Max the Golden Retriever to catch.  “Let’s turn this into something delicious for dessert.”

When Nana asked what sort of cookbooks I had, I pulled out one that her own mother, Gammy to us sisters, had given me as a wedding shower gift.  A Collection of the VERY FINEST RECIPES ever assembled into one Cookbook was exactly the kind of book to find a homey recipe for apricots.

Gammy loved buying cookbooks from church groups or school PTAs and this book was a compilation of a fund-raising cookbook publishers best recipes.  It perfectly captured the sort of mid-western American fare she made most frequently.  Turns out, I put the right tool in the good cook’s hand. On page 189, Nana found a recipe for Creeping Crust Cobbler.  We’ve tweaked it a little over the years.  But there’s one thing that’s never changed; I always remember the summer Nana and the Apricot Girl discovered one of the favorite desserts in the entire Backyard Sister family.

Heat oven to 350.

1/2 C butter
1 C flour
1 C sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 C milk

1 C, or less, sugar.
2 C fruit  We’ve successfully made this with apricots, peaches, plums, and blueberries, or any combination of them all.  You can use the fruit solo or mix together. I usually don’t peel the fruit, but you can if you like.

– Heat fruit with sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar melts and thickens a little.

– Melt butter in 10-inch baking dish by setting dish with butter in it in heating oven.

– Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.
– Add milk and mix.
– Spoon batter in large glops over the melted butter. (Is there anything better than a recipe that uses the word “glops?”)
– Pour fruit and sugar mixture over dough.
– Bake in 350 oven about 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown. (Sometimes this bubbles over into your oven so you might want to place the pie pan on a cookie sheet.)
-Crust will rise to the top.  Serve warm or cold.

Superb with a dollop of ice cream. Excellent for breakfast.

With sweetness,
~ Catherine, Sue, Gammy, Nana, and the Apricot Girl

p.s. You can read Deborah Slicer‘s poem, “Apricot,” in its entirety on the Orion magazine website hereOrion is a treasure for anyone interested in nature meets literature meets culture.

Things I will miss someday

You, of course, Dear One,

And books made of paper.

I know this for certain as I pack my bookcases, preparing to move.  When I open my dog-eared copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I discover a pencil-scrawled note in my own hand.

…overheard in Target at the checkout line by a little girl wearing a bee yellow soccer t-shirt.

“Can I start reading my new book in the car, Mom?”
No, Chelsea. No. Don’t ask me again.”

I write all kinds of things in books. Notes to myself. Things to track down.  Finding this jot immediately takes me back to that night in Target and how I almost touched Chelsea’s shoulder and told her she could drive home with me.  Realizing that would be an infintely eerie and highly misunderstood act, I inscribed her name instead and recorded these words in a book I hadn’t even paid for yet to remind me to speak wisely to my own daughter.

I wonder someday, when all the books are digital, where I’ll keep these memorandums.

It’s frontismatter – will that word become extinct? – and marginalia words recorded in another’s hand that I’ll miss even more when paper books have dwindled to near extinction.

As I pack another shelf, I discover my mother’s signature, swirled in black fountain pen, on the browned and brittle first page of a 1965 Vintage edition of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift From the Sea. So many years after the lend I feel guilty that I’ve not returned it, but in exact opposition to the slow way I lost track of having her book, I immediately remember her words the day she pressed it into my hands.

“This is a lovely book for a woman in the middle of family life. I think you might enjoy it. I know I did.”

I read the book as grown-up daughter, not the seven-year-old I was when my mother read it first, and I wonder if this passage also began a slow shift in the river of her life the way it opened in me the possibility of finding rhythm, peace, and solitude in nature.

“…Woman’s life today is tending more and more toward the state of William James describes so well in the German word, “‘Zerrissenheit—torn-to-pieces-hood.’ She cannot live perpetually in ‘Zerrissenheit. She will be shattered into a thousand pieces.”

The wonderful thing about my mother is the graceful way she can guide without seeming to do so. So subtle was her influence that even though I own several editions of Gift From the Sea, and I’ve given it frequently as a present, it wasn’t until I found my mother’s copy, with her tidy penmanship on the blank first page, that I remembered who first introduced me to its beauty and its wisdom.  I also realize if I alone have kept it all these years, my sisters haven’t had a chance to read their mother’s treasure. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

Packing and moving can make a person feel nostalgic, but this longing for the permanence of pen and ink goes deeper than my desire to touch the same page as one I love.

Where will I find the croissant crumbs from that little boulangerie in Paris when I reread Baudelaire?

Where will I tuck the card or letter from my book’s giver and how will he inscribe upon the front, “Love, Dad.”

When I really really miss you, where will I find your chocolate fingerprints, or the sand leftover from your own sojourn one summer by the sea?

I suppose these things will remain alone in my memory’s cache or I’ll forget and never miss what I don’t recall.

Oh I suppose I could always write about them, but how would I find the time and words?

Imagine this in pen and ink,

The Weekend Dish

We know your mother is the sun, the stars, and the moon (OK, that’s the last moon reference for a very long time.)  And we know how much you like photography. So why not take mom to San Diego’s Balboa Park this weekend for a superb photography exhibit?

Sure, it’ll probably be crowded at the park. But Sunday, May 13 is your last chance to catch  “Eyes of a Nation: A Century of American Photography” at the Museum of Photographic Art.  (Admission:  $8 with discounts for seniors, students, and military.) There are so many things to love about the show, but as a neophyte photography historian, I found it deeply interesting that it’s arranged to follow the history of photography’s evolution into the realm of fine art.  You can read W.S. Di Piero’s fine review here.

Di Piero is also an accomplished poet whose most recent book, Nitro Nights (2011), was published by Copper Canyon Press, the Port Townsend publishing house I was reading for when I discovered a the “grey-haired man and a white-haired woman” from yesterday’s post.

As I was saying.

Take a picnic. I’ve already checked and predictably The Prado has no reservations. The sweet hostess who answered my call chortled a little when I asked if she thought a person might be able to get a stand-by seat.  “It’s MOTHER’S DAY,” she said. In all caps, just like that. As if I didn’t know.

Take a garden walk.  Choose between the Lily Pond in front of the Botanical Building (free);  the California Native Plant Garden (free); or the Japanese Friendship Garden ($4). If none of those inspire, there are 16 others to choose from. Preview here.

Take a seat at the free organ concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion from 2-3 p.m.

If you go. Take a picture with your mom and send it to us.  Because here at The Backyard Sisters, we love our mom.  She taught us that sunglasses can create allure, that outdoor dining is the finest, and that family really is the most important thing.

Backyard Sisters, circa 1966
(Yes there are four of us. More on that another time.)