Back in the summer between my junior and senior year I visited a handful of countries in Europe with our high school German Club. We spent a whirlwind week and a half in and out of two coach buses exploring cities, touring castles and cathedrals, admiring artistic masterpieces, and literally shouting from the mountaintops. The second half of our visit was an immersion of sorts, each student living with a different family in a village south of Frankfurt in southern Hesse, Germany.
On instruction from our teacher, talk with our host families and at school was to be a learning experience, and therefore strictly in German. Shy and not at all conversationally confident in this second language, my host father and older brother were gracious enough to bend the rules and intersperse a good bit of English into our interactions. My host mother, on the other hand, was either as timid as me, valued her silence, or couldn’t speak much English, as we seldom spoke more than a few sentences at a time. Still, she headlines my fondest memories under their roof.
Every morning I would help her prepare the lunches she sent my “brother” Ralf and me off to school with. Always the same: 1 or 2 small ripe nectarines, and a simple sandwich on toasted wheat bread with thin slices of a pale gold cheese, giant homegrown basil leaves, no condiments. I couldn’t have tore into the identical contents of those brown paper bags any more excitedly. No doubt it had a lot to do with that I’m in Germany thing, but there was something special about this combination, the tastes and aromas heightened from being kept in my warm backpack until break.
To this day the pairing of basil with nectarine, any stone fruit, is totally my jam, and one I riff on frequently during the summer. Living where we do, we have an easier time finding quality peaches (same went for former locales on the Gulf in FL and TX for whatever reason), so it’s the one I turn to most. Besides that, peaches are a little sweeter and more intensely flavored than their fuzz-free cousins, which makes them perfect for creating recipes with less sugar.