from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr


The first peach slithers down his throat like rapture. A sunrise in his mouth. p 471

There was a smell coming from the fridge and each time I opened the door I tried to surreptitiously locate it. It wasn’t like I was trying to keep the rotting food from M or from T, heaven knows if it was bad enough they would surely find it like a game of hide and seek gone horribly wrong. No, it was more like I was in denial. Trying not to face the fact that something I wanted to eat later, a food that I had invested energy and money in, had gone bad from neglect. Wasteful, utterly wasteful–an unpardonable sin in my grandmother’s eyes.

It was the rhubarb. It’s always the rhubarb.

I pick it or friends give it to me and I think Hooray!! (exclamation points absolutely essential). Rhubarb muffins, rhubarb syrup for seltzer, rhubarb bars for my dear friend and stewed rhubarb for porridge.

But not this time. I dropped it in the compost without the moment of silence it was surely due. I tried to put it out of my mind, and here I am drudging it up for everyone to see. I couldn’t find the time to make use of that delectable pink fruit.

I can’t believe there wasn’t time for freezing. Really how hard is it to find the time to cut it up and put it away? Because the best thing about preserving or freezing is getting the chance to relive those moments. How does one survive without berries in the winter? The interior of the freezer matching the frozen landscape outside in December, January and that particularly sub-zero week in February that always sneaks up on me. I try my hardest to ration out the bags until there is just one left, which surely means spring is just around the corner.

This March I made a peach pie for the Pi Day event we held at the Library. It was a modified cookie swap and each person brought one pie and went home with four different quarters. I used a recipe from one favorite kitchen guru and the rye crust from another dear source. I don’t often make fruits pies and worried about cutting it open to have all of the fruit gush out. Lo and behold it all stayed in place. Each sliver was perfectly formed and tasted like the pie I remembered from my childhood. I’d like to make it again soon. Maybe the fruit will come running out, which is like an excuse to pass by and grab a forkful. It’s like uncharted territory; for spilled fruit belongs to no one piece, merely the owner of the first fork. Peaches do taste oh so thrilling, like capturing the essence of the sun. I never ask “Do I dare?” when I hold a peach– I just bite.

In Doerr’s book Marie Laure is a blind girl who has found the preserved peaches and is in hiding from a Nazi soldier. She takes refuge in a wardrobe hoping that her thudding heart hasn’t given away her hiding spot. Even in the pit of despair, when her hunger threatens to eat her whole, she holds onto the jar. When the danger has past and her safety has been secured, she opens up the jar and let’s the juice dribble down her chin.

Eating them is cause for rejoicing. Grabbing one from the farm stand is its own particular pleasure, immediate and true. But the preserving of a fruit for a later time, causes one season to explode into the next, like a snowball in the freezer taken out in the middle of July.

One thought on “from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  1. I recently finished reading this book and the image of Marie eating that can of peaches stuck with me so much that the other day M and I had a discussion about all the other places in literature that mention the immeasurable deliciousness of a jar of peaches. Then I went and poaches some peaches in wine and vanilla. Glorious, juicy sunshine.

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