Years ago, we had a dog named Jake.
Jake was a yellow Labrador, kind of floppy, and always happy – even though he lived in the same house with another Jake. Jake was an extraordinary dog – on camping trips, he made more friends with strangers than anyone in my family (we’re a talkative bunch) and had a knack for diving down to the bottom of a river to fetch the exact rock that I threw in for him. Anyway, he was one of two Jakes.
Yes – my family had a Labrador named Jake, and my soon-to-be stepmom coincidentally owned a German Shepherd named Jake – like the Brady Bunch, the two became brothers. Coincidental, utterly confused, Pete-and-Pete-like brothers.
Years ago, when my parents first moved into their pretty 1950s ranch home in Los Angeles, we had a fledgling peach tree. It had a few fruit on it, but with most of the back yard under renovation at the time, we didn’t really dare to venture for a bite or two. After all, we only had Wednesdays and every other weekend with Dad, so it was rare for our visits to align with a day of perfectly ripe fruit.
I can’t remember exactly which barbeque it was – it could have been my birthday, or a summer get together, or even in the fall, because, well, you know how summer-like California is in the fall. But after we finished dinner on the patio, my family relaxed around the table. In a lull of conversation, someone looked up, and noticed Jake (the labrador) barking at the peach tree.
He circled it a few times, and then started pawing at it. And then he jumped in it, and attempted to rip some of the branches off. He did this for a good fifteen minutes straight, until we called him over and chatted with him in exchange for sloppy kisses.
The family couldn’t help but laugh; we had no idea what he was doing. To this day, we still don’t. No one saw any animals (and it was rare to see wildlife that deep in a sea of concrete), but whatever offense the tree committed, Jake started attacking the tree in return. I snapped a quick video with my camera at the time, which may or may not be lost in some failed hard drive in my parents’ attic.
Jake’s no longer around, and at some point, that peach tree passed away too. My dad shortly replaced it with another fledgling peach tree – that one still exists, and has been producing mass amounts of peaches ever since. So much so that in college, I used to call my friends over. They’d bring baskets upon baskets, and fill them up to make peach pies or peach jam, or, peaches, just to eat a peach. To this day, my family calls that tree “Jake’s peach tree.” It’s technically not the same tree, but those details are meaningless.
As always, this July has been unbearably hot. Since my family left, I have had quite the difficult week: our air conditioner broke, we had a lethal carbon monoxide scare from our water heater, and in true Washington fashion, the utilities companies were a hot mess with service.
With only a few days before my flight to Mexico, I find myself struggling to find time to relax. But soon. Soon enough, I’ll wake up, bike 1.8 miles to a beach on the Gulf of Mexico, and eat fish tacos and sip margaritas until the sun sets along the country behind me.
Tomorrow is a new day. But for now, I’ll sip a glass of this.
Peach and Ginger Sangria
1 large bottle of white wine, chilled
4 to 6 ripe peaches
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup triple sec
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 three-ince pieces of fresh ginger root
A handful of fresh mint leaves
First, trim the ends of the ginger root and peel the skin off with a spoon or a sharp knife. Slice the ginger into long, thin strips. Then, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Boil over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Add the ginger, cover, and let steep until completely cool. Strain the solution to remove the ginger, set aside 1/2 cup of the solution for your sangria, and store the rest in the refrigerator for other yummy cocktails.
Next, slice your peaches, and set aside. Combine the brandy, triple sec, and mint in your pitcher – muddle the mint. If you have a muddler, use it. If you’re me, you’ll just use the end of your French rolling pin.
Combine the peaches with the mint and liquor, and stir in the wine and the 1/2 cup of ginger syrup that you set aside. Let the sangria steep in your refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Garnish with a peach or a sprig of fresh mint, preferably from your garden.