More Memories of Annie's Kitchen and Blueberry-Nectarine Crisp

I wish I could take you back to the comfort of Grandma Annie's kitchen.

It was quite ordinary as kitchens go. A square room with no built-in cabinetry, it had a deep farmhouse sink and white appliances. There were three or four mismatched cabinets around the perimeter and a table in the middle, not a scarred wooden table, but a newer white enamel-and-chrome model with slats that pulled out to make it larger.

On cool, dreary days, the kitchen was redolent of vanilla and almond and buttery aromas and perhaps chopped fruit in an old stoneware bowl. Annie had no newfangled gadgets, only time-tested utensils of wood and stainless steel. She used an old meat grinder, the kind you clamp on a table or cupboard, and an old-fashioned potato masher.

Her conversation was not deep, for she was not on the outside a deep woman. But she posessed an inner core of steel and a firm convictions when it came to her Catholic faith and her unwavering sense of right and wrong. She was generous, always buying this or that for her grandchildren. I did not truly appreciate her until she was long gone.

Her kitchen remains, though four years ago the family home on Dunlap and Bellevue in the heart of old Frenchtown was sold to a couple who gutted much of it and made it stronger, bringing it into its third century. The kitchen was the first room finished and when I visited it while the remodeling was in progress, I could feel Annie's presence. It was a mid-fall evening and as I stood in the kitchen with Denise, its new mistress, I could sense Annie's approval.

"Yes," I could hear Annie say to me in the deepening dusk. "This feels right. It is still my kitchen."

How lucky that Denise and her family have the sense of goodness my Annie had! How lucky for us that Annie's house - the home Pépere bought about 1883 - is in such good hands. Its new occupants were already friends, now they are part of our extended family.

As I baked this dessert in my own kitchen tonight, I though again of Annie and the passage of time and the timeless chopping and peeling and mixing that is part of what we do in kitchens, what we have done for centuries. I wonder if Denise feels part of that. I must ask her next time we talk.

Blueberry-Nectarine Crisp

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup brown-sugar/Splenda mix
  • 1 cup cold Smart Balance (in place of butter)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 5-6 fresh nectarines. cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup fructose
  • 3/4 cup cognac-white wine blend
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cornstar]ch
  • dash cinnamon

Blend flour and sugar. Cut in butter or Smart Balance and pecans for a coarse mixture. Set aside.

Dice nectarines and combine with blueberries in large bowl. Blend Cognac-wine mix with cornstrach, vanilla and sugar until sugar dissolves. Pour over fruit and gently toss. Pour fruit into greased 9x9-inch baking pan. Top with crust mixture. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven on middle rack for about 40 minutes. Serve warm with French vanilla ice cream.

Note: My husband and I loved this recipe, which is adapted from one on Epicurious. My husband raved, saying it was a good balance of sweet and tart. Annie would have loved it.


Lydia said…
Beautiful photos and recipe -- my mouth is watering. How nice that a kitchen you loved is now being tended by someone who will care for it, and who welcomes you to it.
Mimi said…
Yes, Lydia, we are very lucky! Denise is a good woman; I worked with her husband many years ago and in recent years I've become acquainted with her brother and sister-in-law. Very nice people!
Kristen said…
What a great story! I always wonder about the inhabitants of homes from our past. It is so neat that you are still in touch with those who own Annie's kitchen. I've been so busy lately....I've missed reading your lovely stories.
A grand story. But I just can't think a kitchen can possibly be ordinary if there is real cooking and living that goes on in it. Real cooking and living like must have gone on in Annie's kitchen would have had to be extraordinary!
fiona said…
I loved the further Annie story Mimi, I could visualise her working in there as you wrote about it all. I still mash potatoes the old fashioned way ;)

The blueberry-nectarine crisp is mouth watering, absolutely WONDERFUL !!!
Mimi said…
Kristen, I am so thrilled that good people are in Annie's house. It means so much to us. We know the house, which was once a commercial building with a flat above it, was already there in 1880. It may have been built ca 1863 and added to during the nect 30 years.

Tanna, I am in total agreement. I do think kitchens need tables, which is what I miss in my kitchen. I gess that is why I have a virtual table here.

Fiona, it was so good. Tart, yes, with enough sweetness to make it tasty and not overwhelming.
This looks incredible! I love your photos, and the combination of blueberries and nectarines, both of which are at their best right now, sounds fantastic. I will look for some on my next trip to the farmer's market
dharmagirl said…
I just love how you evoke those common emotions of family and tradition--how a place and a food can connect us with our loved ones. And how we can continue to share those special memories, places, and people with others. I have a soft spot for blueberries--my family has a blueberry farm in Michigan and this time of year is bittersweet as we say goodbye to our berries at the end of harvest.
Julie said…
That looks so delicious and comforting,Mimi.
Judy said…
Oh that looks and sounds yummy!! I'm sitting here at my desk (supposedly working) and wishing I could run home and make some!! How lucky to have someone who loves something that you love and will cherish it. Lovely post as always.
Mimi said…
Skimmy Gourmet, I agree about the colors! Food colors are always so deep and layered. And the tastes complement one another, too, but they almost create a new flavor.

Dharmagirl, I always did think food was more than recipes. It is part of everything we do, really. Michigan, my birth state, does have some great blueberries.

Julie, I think that although we look forward to fall, we do need comfort when August turns blustery!
Mimi said…
Judy, maybe you will make some tonight! It is so cold here in Wisconsin right now that this was a good transitional dessert to make. Tastes like summer, bakes like winter!
Anonymous said…
Your crisp looks delicious. Your writing and photographs, beautiful.
Mimi said…
Thank you, Maryann. I truly appreciate your comments

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