Sunday, September 18, 2016

#RoshHashanah ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿฏ ๐Ÿ• Peach Plum Torte ๐Ÿ‘. ๐Ÿฐ & Arturo Vivante Essay ๐Ÿ“š





The New York Times perennial reprint of of their plum torte recipe in Marguax Laskey Sept. 12, 2016 article  "The Story Behind Our Most Requested Recipe Everreminded me of  Arturo Vivante's essay "The Orchardabout a WWII Italian Jewish refugee trying to rebuild his peach orchard after the war. The precarious fate of peaches in Italy's horticulture seemed to be a metaphor for the fate of Jews in fascist Italy.













Laskey  points out the recipe was inspired by the Italian plum season:


"It certainly appeared without fanfare, nestled in the bottom left-hand corner of the page, accompanying a brief report about the arrival of the Italian plum season. With just eight ingredients and a few short steps, it didn’t seem to have the makings of a hit."
Purportedly, the plum torte is popular as a Rosh Hashana dish in New York:

"Melissa Clark wrote about the ubiquitousness of the torte at Rosh Hashana celebrations in New York"


The recipe's author suggests peaches may be substituted for the plums:


"Ms. Burros, who is now retired, is still making the torte. In the summer, she prefers to use blueberries and peaches, and she doesn’t like it with the oversize plums available in midsummer. She holds out for the smaller blue-black Italian plums that arrive in early autumn."

All of this reminded me of the Arturo Vivante "The Orchard" essay I read in high school:

Emoji Preview:  ๐Ÿ‘Ž ๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ’

     They all have this prejudice against fruit trees," he keeps saying. Though no one wishes to remind him, there is some reason for it. Thirty-five years ago, when he was forty-three and a novice to agriculture--philosophy until that time had been his only field--soon after moving to the Tuscan estate his father bought him, with extraordinary energy he set himself to looking for spring water, of which the house was till then deprived, found it ('It was there,' he said,) ordered two hundred peach trees from a nursery in Pistoia, and had them planted down  on  a fertile plain below the spring. Peaches, he claimed, would fetch far more than wine, wheat, or olive oil -- the produce that the farmers in this, the Chianti region, prized.  In the nearby town, he argued, much of the fruit had to be brought in from far away, so that there surely was a market here for perishable fruit like peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries -- but especially for peaches.  Peach trees grew fast. 'In three years, they begin to bear,' he said, and started counting, though when not on the subject of fruit trees he was fond of quoting the Latin dictum that he who begins to count begins to err.The figures he came to! Two hundred trees by twenty kilos by two lire.  Eight thousand lire from just two hundred trees.  Walking the fields, looking at the ground, hands clasped behind his back, he had his sons excited.  Only the farmers remained skeptical.  They understood vines, olive trees, and wheat.  Anything else they rather distrusted.  Their attitude didn't daunt him.  It only made him bolder.

Emoji Preview:  ๐Ÿ“‰ ๐Ÿท๐Ÿž ๐Ÿ“ˆ๐Ÿ’ธ

     In the moist soil of the plain, the trees grew well, and in the fall he ordered more -- three hundred this time.  "Five hundred trees by twenty kilos by two lire," he now said.  In the spring of their second year, the little trees had their first blossoms -- the most delicate pink, a few to each plant.  One or two became peaches -- tiny slips of substances with a silvery, soft fuzz ending in a cowlick.  At first the faintest green, they swelled, they reddened, they were ripe.  And at the same time the price of wine was falling.  It cost less than a lira a bottle -- hardly a dime.  He joked about it.  "Please, please have another glass and help us drink it."  Wheat, too, was low, and so was olive oil.  Only the taxes rose.

Emoji Preview: ๐Ÿ’ง๐Ÿ˜ฐ ¯\_(ใƒ„)_/¯ ๐Ÿšซ๐Ÿ’ฐ ๐Ÿšซ๐Ÿ’ก๐Ÿก๐ŸŒ‡๐ŸŒ†๐ŸŒƒ ๐ŸŒณ ๐Ÿ‘€

     But in the plain the five hundred trees, growing up and florid, promised harvests that would once and for all solve what he called the "disastrous financial situation."  In the house, one heard a lot about it.  "The water is level with our throats," he'd say, creating a feeling that made everyone uneasy and drew long sighs from his wife.  "But oh, dear me, what can we do?" she'd say, stretching her arms down in a helpless gesture.  Any big new purchase was put off till the peach trees would start producing.  And in the meantime, to save on electricity, he bought weak light bulbs.  The house grew dim.  Never mind, his eyes were on the trees.


     Every day, over his shoulders the threadbare charcoal-gray mantle he had worn since his young days when he had climbed Mount Blanc, the Matterhorn, the Giant's Tooth, Monte Rosa, and a hundred lesser peaks both of the Alps and of the Apennines, he would go down to the plain to look at his peach trees.

Emoji Preview: ๐ŸŒผ๐ŸŒผ๐ŸŒผ๐ŸŒผ:๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿšต๐ŸŒ„๐Ÿ“’๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒณ

     The next March, there weren't just one or two blossoms to each tree but myriads.  Each flower a peach.  Well, perhaps not quite. Say three to one -- three blossoms to one peach.  Say even four to one.  He counted the blossoms on a branch, and then the branches; he divided by four to be on the safe side; again he divided, to get the weight in kilos; then he started multiplying.  It was like coasting on a bicycle down a mountain road and having the horizon at one's feet.  He looked at the plain, only a portion of which had trees.  "If all goes well,: he said, "we'll plant some more."

Emoji Preview: ๐ŸŒฌ๐Ÿ’จ๐Ÿƒ ๐Ÿ‘๐ŸŒณ๐ŸŒณ✂️๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿ“ฆ


     All did go well.  When the wind blew away the petals of the blossoms, there remained the greenish-white, tiny, rounded mass.  A little bead of fluff it seemed at first, but if you squashed it there was a green smear left on your thumb.  That downy light green was alive, and it clung hard by its minuscule stem.  It was about to drop or to come off at the least touch.  And it seemed as though there was no blossom that did not turn into a fruit.  The peaches were so thick that here and there the trees had to be thinned.  When the peaches ripened, he hired some help -- mainly girls from nearby farms -- to pick them.  Into the barn came the full baskets and the crates, filling it with fragrance.
     "They are as beautiful as flowers," he said, watching the fruit being put in rows and layers inside the boxes.

Emoji Preview: ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ’ถ๐Ÿšš๐Ÿ•ต️๐Ÿšง๐Ÿถ⛏ ⛲ ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿผ ๐ŸŽ’

     From town, the buyers came with their wallets bulging, and the trucks left with heavy loads.  There were so many peaches they tempted thieves.  After some had been stolen, a barbed-wire fence was set up around the orchard, and a big white shepherd dog put there to guard it.  Signs claiming the peaches were from his farm appeared on the pushcarts in the squares.  He beamed.  He saw the world peach-colored.  So he ordered more trees -- a thousand this time -- and since the water of the spring wasn't sufficient to irrigate them all, some workmen who specialized in building wells dug a trench, spectacularly deep and long.  Enough water was found to irrigate three or four thousand trees.  To him agriculture was irrigation and fruit trees.  Even as a child he had had a passion for water and watercourses.  Once, he ran away from home and was found with a bundle on his back, walking along a stream, trying to trace it to its source.  And now nothing was nicer than in a summer drought seeing water gushing out and making mud of the dry, the brittle earth -- nothing more beautiful than fruit or than girls picking the fruit.

Emoji Preview: ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ‘๐ŸŒž๐Ÿ“—๐ŸŒณ⛄ 

     The blooming that took place the following spring!  The bees seemed driven crazy.  They buzzed from one blossom to the other, gathering pollen, bringing it around.  Again the blossoms blew away petal after petal, leaving the tiny, almond-shaped, thin, fuzzy peaches that by and by swelled and captured color from the sun, except where the leaves cast their sharp, sleek shadows on them, and, swelling more and more, became so heavy some of the branches had to be sustained.  Again the girls came, and the buyers.  Again the trucks left left laden.  Again the farm's name appeared on the pushcarts.  And before winter two thousand more peach trees were planted. 


Emoji Preview: ๐Ÿ’๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿฆƒ❄️ ☘๐Ÿ“†๐ŸŒง  ๐ŸŒฆ️⛅ ๐ŸŒฅ☁๐ŸŽ๐ŸŒŒ๐ŸŒš๐ŸŒž ❅❄❆๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ‘

     
     That made thirty-five hundred on the plain, and there were other fruit trees near the house -- apricot, cherry, plum, persimmon, apple, fig, and pear.  The peach trees were of several varieties, from the early kind, which ripened in June, to some that got ripe in November.  Foreign-sounding names like Hale, Crawford, and Late Elberta became household words.  In the next season, he said, there would be at least fifteen hundred trees producing.  Winter came.  Now the peach trees stood, bare of their foliage, in long, stern rows down in the plain, asleep and silent except when the wind blew strong, and then it whistled through them and they seemed to stir.  They stood naked, yet so far from dead: each tiny twig intact, waiting and ready -- heedful almost.  Then in March a softening of the air, and very quickly, as if they could wait no longer, the first buds, the blossoms, and their petals falling to disclose the velvet of the newborn peach.  Still March.  Mist and gentle showers, and the sun shining out of speckled clouds; then clouds fringed with silver, followed by skies completely overcast.  For days there was no sun, no stars, but under the dim days and the black night the peach trees were safe, as thought under a cover.  Then, late one evening, the two flag-shaped, rusty weathervanes over the house were heard distinctly turning on the roof -- a grating, creaking sound.  Slowly they turned, taking what seemed a long time about it, opposing as they did a fair amount of resistance to the wind and indicating a marked change in its direction.  It was the north wind.  Quickly it cleared the sky.  Over the house now, the stars were shining in all their wintry brightness.  One couldn't help but admire them.  But to the not so different blossoms on the plain this change of wind, this polished starlit sky was baneful, and all the members of the household knew it.  In the morning, when they woke up, the sun was shining, the fields down in the valleys were hoary and stiff with frost.  A workman who had got up at dawn reported that in the plain the frost had "burned" all of the peaches.
     "All of them?"
     "Hardly any left, you'll see.  Why it was like crunching through snow down there this morning," he said, and swore, impressed -- no, almost awed by what nature could work when it put its mind to it.  A robust frost, no doubt.

Emoji Preview: ๐Ÿ”ช⚫️

     In the next few days, its full effect became apparent.  The tiny, beadlike peaches, as you could readily see if you cut into them with your thumbnail, were black inside, had lost their firmness, had a shrivelled feel, and they came off at the slightest touch, without a sound, as if they were bits of matter that had got there by chance.  On tree after tree, one looked in vain for a whole peach, for one that wasn't black and wizened.
     The leaves came out of the buds, deep green and thick, so thick sometimes that you parted them to see if by chance they weren't hiding a peach.  But you would never find one.
     "Still, the trees are growing," he said, unperturbed.  "Without fruit they may develop more, and next spring we'll try and protect them."

Emoji Preview: ๐ŸŒก⏬๐ŸŒŸ ☁ ๐ŸŒ…๐Ÿ˜ฅ๐Ÿšฐ⛺๐Ÿ„๐Ÿ“—✡⏰๐ŸŽซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿšข๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง


     In the late fall, he bought an extraordinary number of cane mats, put up tall poles along the rows of peach trees, strung wires from pole to pole, and in March, just before blossomtime, hoisted the mats up.  At the same time he had piles of kindling, brambles, and moist straw placed here and there ready to be burned if a cold night should come.  A cold night came -- frosty, sparkling with stars.  The fires were lit.  The smoke rose, hiding the stars.  And the mats hung like magic carpets over the three thousand five hundred trees.  But in the morning, when the sun rose in the blue sky, the little peaches had fared no better than the previous year.
     Another summer without fruit.  Though fruitless, the trees still had to be pruned, the ground around them hoed and irrigated.  It was discouraging, however; the workmen clipped and dug without believing in their work.
     The following March, the mats went up again.  They could be seen from the main road -- a tented army.  Some passersby wondered what they were.  And those who knew laughed or made remarks like "The good money he wasted on that place!"
     "Two good seasons and two bad ones," he said "We have an even chance."
     In March, there was no frost.  No frost in April.  The peaches, tens of thousands of them, were fair-sized.  "They are out of danger now," everyone confidently said.  Then, on May 2nd, the frost.  The spectacle this time was worse than it had ever been.  The peaches withered, and grew as black as mushrooms rotting, then fell from their branches.  The workmen shook their heads.  "That plain is lethal," his wife said, but -- he took it in his stride, like the philosopher he was, and continued hoping.
     It was clear, though, that those first two good years had been exceptional, for the following spring, too, there came a deadly frost.  The land -- valuable, fertile land -- could not be kept unproductive.  The older peach trees were cut down; the younger ones were left in the hope that there might be a crop.  There wasn't.  Not for two more years was there a good season.  By then, however, the Second World War had broken out, and he, being Jewish and alert to what might happen, had taken the family out of Italy to England, leaving the estate in the care of a bailiff.  For the duration of the war, the peach trees were forgotten.  For so long they had been the subject of so much conversation, and now suddenly they didn't matter anymore.




 I humbly suggest an apropos ๐ŸŽผ๐ŸŽถ musical accompaniment for the remainder of this essay is the soundtrack to "The Remains of the Day": 





Emoji Preview: ๐ŸŒณ ๐Ÿ‘•  ๐Ÿ‘–๐Ÿ‘— ๐ŸŒณ


     After the war, in 1946, when the family returned, of the three thousand five hundred peach trees only two trees were left.  They stood by the barn, old and barren, many of their branches without leaves.  Why they had been spared nobody knew.  Perhaps because they weren't in anybody's way, perhaps to stretch a clothesline to -- there was a front nearby where women did the washing.  Or perhaps just as a souvenir.







Emoji Preview: ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ“–♨๐Ÿ‚

     But if the trees were gone, his passion for them wasn't.  He read an American pamphlet on peach trees, which one of his sons had sent for and given to him.  It was one of those booklets that the American government prints and sends out free upon request as a public service -- a plainly written, informative thing.  The choice of location for an orchard, it said, was crucial; since warm air tends to rise and cold air fall, in hilly country where there's danger of frost peach trees ought never to be planted at the foot of hills or on a plain, no matter how fertile and rich in water that low ground might be.  Scarcity of water, is stressed, was far less dangerous than frost, since very little could be done to save the peaches on a frosty night, while in a drought the trees could be irrigated wherever they might be.  These remarks were so pertinent that they seemed a comment on what had happened, and read as though they had been written for him.  "Not one of those agricultural experts I consulted ever told me," he said.
     He began again, went right ahead and planted trees high on the slope of a hill above the plain.  People cautioned him.  Irritated, he said, "Everyone is against fruit trees," and he complained about this "hostile attitude" as though it were absurd.  If someone mentioned the word "frost" to him, he patiently explained that since warm air rises and cold air falls, up on the hill where the new orchard was, frost wasn't a danger anymore.  And he repeated his old arguments in favor of peach trees -- about the good market for perishable fruit in the hill town, about the low price of wine and wheat.  People looked at him.  They knew better than to contradict him.  They knew that if they did he would come looking for them wherever they were -- in their bedrooms, even -- and bring up the subject almost as though they were heathens who had to be converted.  One knew his step approaching, knew what was on his mind, knew what he would say, and either one didn't answer or was reduced to saying, "Oh, well, maybe you are right."



Emoji Preview: ๐Ÿ’ง๐Ÿ‚๐Ÿ›ข๐Ÿ’ธ๐Ÿ•ณ ๐Ÿ’… ๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ—ผ [sorry @PEARLklos] ๐ŸŽ๐ŸŽ ๐Ÿท๐Ÿ’Š ๐Ÿšฌ๐Ÿš ๐ŸšŒ ๐Ÿ“š ๐ŸŽž๐Ÿ“

     He certainly planted the trees with convection; they were a sort of cause.  It was as if some future need, hardly surmised or suspected, were directing the course of his actions.  And there was no dissuading him.  He went straight on putting all his savings into the new orchard, selling his shares, keeping workmen on it.  They brought water to the new plants in a barrel on an oxcart.  And he himself, though frail and aging, was often seen going up to the orchard in the heat, his arms stretched by two full pails.  Finally, as the trees grew in size and number, he piped the water up to them.  To increase its volume, he even repaired an ancient, leaking cistern into which rainwater drained form the roofs of the house.
     "Sink money into that hole!" one of his sons said, without considering that his father led a very frugal life indeed and that the money he spent on the orchard was his only outlay of any size.
     "What about men who have mistresses, go to Paris, bet on horses, drive expensive cars, drink the best cognacs, or, hypochondriacs, fill the house with drugs?" another of his sons retorted.
     "There are those, too."
     "He -- he smokes Alfas, goes into town by bus, buys a book or takes in a movie once in a while.  Why shouldn't he spend money on fruit trees if he wants to?"
     "It's all right to say that.  But when you see those deep new trenches he has dug -- more than three feet deep, you know -- "
     "After all, the land is his, isn't it?"

Emoji Preview: ๐Ÿ“œ๐Ÿ‘ฟ⚖ ๐Ÿšซ๐Ÿ–Š️ ⛄️


     Was it his land? Just before the war, in 1938, when the Fascists threatened to confiscate Jewish property, he transferred it to his sons, who, because his wife wasn't Jewish, were exempt from expropriation.  In name, at least, the land was theirs.  Morally, though, it was still his, for the transfer had been no more than a temporary expedient made necessary by an evil government for an evil reason.  Those circumstances were no conveniently forgotten, and when a piece of land was up for sale, as his signature was not required, no one asked for his approval.  He became more and more removed from the running of the estate.  He cared only for his orchard and his books, went from one to the other, over his shoulders still wearing the cape, as threadbare as an ancient flag, darned many times over.
     And now the peach trees on the hill were in their third year, the year in which they were supposed to start producing.  He waited confidently.  No cane mats or piles of straw and kindling up here.  No need.  The warm air rises from the plain, the cold air sinks.  The stars can shine unutterably bright, the north wind blow, the frost fall.  It won't affect them.  Not up here, unless, of course, it is one of those exceptionally cold years that come once, and maybe not even once, in a decade, and we all hope it won't be one of those.
     A frost came that made the plain and all the low ground white.  But the hilltops were green, and so was the slop on which the peach trees stood, all clothed in pink.  The cold persisted; sometimes the fringe of white -- the frost coating with a silver edge the blades of grass -- rose almost to the level of the orchard, skirting it like a tide.  Each day, a workman, now become a real expert in fruit trees, disclosed the tiny peaches in their blossoms, and assayed them.  They were still whole, still firm, still whitish-green and pulpy, their skin still fuzzy.  "So far it hasn't touched them," he reported.
     "If they'd been down in the plain . . ."
     "Down there, there wouldn't have been one left; you can be sure of that."

Emoji Preview: ๐Ÿšซ๐Ÿšš๐Ÿš™ ๐Ÿ–️☕️๐ŸŽ⏳⌛ ๐Ÿ•Š๐Ÿ‘

The peaches ripened.  The girls came to pick them.  Girls picking the fruit -- the way he watched them, the way he spoke about them, sometimes it seemed he wanted nothing more in return for all his labors.  Oh, the peaches weren't as large as they had been down in the fertile plain, but perhaps they had more taste.  Nor were there truckfuls of them, but every day a station wagon left, loaded.
     Each summer, there's a crop.  Though he has high hopes and keeps planting peaches, cherries, figs, the orchard hasn't solved the estate's heavy financial situation -- but it has solved his.  At the time when, to pay the taxes, the land has to be sold bit after bit and two of his sons have left to go and live elsewhere -- one in Milan, the other in America -- he, without having to ask anything from anybody, earns from his orchard enough money for his books, the bus fare into town, the cup of coffee, the movie, the Alfas that he smokes, the little gifts he buys once in a while, and new fruit trees.  The orchard fills his needs.  Year after year, he watches the trees blossom in the spring, the girls gathering the peaches in the summer.


  1I think, possibly, Vivante was paraphrasing the legal term "judex non calculat" from wikipedia (yeah, I know, not a reliable source):

"'The judge does not calculate': 'A principle that calculation errors made by the court do not invalidate the judgment on a technicality. Also taken to mean that the judge does not tally up the arguments of both sides and decide in favor of the more numerous, but rather weighs all of the evidence without regard to the number of arguments made.'"


Here are the questions included at the end of this essay in Stubbs, Marcia, and Sylvan Barnet. The Little, Brown Reader. 3rd ed. Boston: Little, Brown, 1983. Print.

















If you answer all the questions, you'll win a gold star in your crown in heaven, as my Mother was wont to say.

Questions
1.  Read the first paragraph a few times, perhaps even aloud.  Now characterize the voice of the narrator.  Does he seem condescending, friendly, sarcastic, or what?  Next, try to locate--by rereading the passage--the words, phrases, or constructions that especially give this voice its character.
2.  The second sentence from the end is: "The orchard fills his needs." What are his needs?  How does the orchard fill them?
3.  In a paragraph characterize the farmer who is the subject of Vivante's essay.  You may want to quote a few phrases, but the paragraph should chiefly be a description of the man in your own voice.


A possible outline of an answer to question 2: It seems the protagonist in this story is attempting to recreate a lost Eden by cultivating his orchard.  The farmer's exile seems to recapitulate Adam's from his "Paradise Lost."


From Monday, April 25, 2016 "It's About Time" post: Adam and Eve in The Garden of Eden Eating the Forbidden Fruit (detail), by Willem Vrelant, early 1460s


























The farmer's pre-war orchard aspired to realize the lofty goals of peace, prosperity and harmony. He sought to establish both physical and fiscal security in his quest  to debunk his neighbors "prejudice against fruit trees."

After the cataclysm of the war, the poor farmer lost his missionary zeal of proselytizing "heathens who had to be converted." He reined in his aspirations of a grandiose Garden of Eden as illustrated by gilded illuminated manuscripts to a simple blue grey water color. The suffering and losses from both manmade and natural disasters caused the farmer to adopt the advice from "Walden" and restricted his wants to his needs.


"When he has obtained those things which are necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtain the superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life now, his vacation from humbler toil having commenced. The soil, it appears, is suited to the seed, for it has sent its radicle downward, and it may now send its shoot upward also with confidence. Why has man rooted himself thus firmly in the earth, but that he may rise in the same proportion into the heavens above?"

Cecily Brown's “Untitled (Paradise),” 2014 from EINRICH, W. (2016, October 13). Cecily Brown’s Repeated Images Tell a Story About Drawing. New York Times, p. C24. Retrieved October 17, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/14/arts/design/cecily-browns-repeated-images-tell-a-story-about-drawing.html?_r=0


















Conversely, people who like more gnoshing and less gnashing of teeth may wish to take the advice offered by "Jewish Jewels" @4:12 vs Thoreau and eat a jelly donut to make up for our Paradise Lost.
















and in case the above link breaks:



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