‘Miss Eliza Bennet,’ said Miss Bingley, ‘despises cards. She is a great reader and has no pleasure in any thing else.’
‘I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,’ cried Elizabeth; ‘I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.’
– – –
“Then,’ observed Elizabeth, ‘you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman.’
“Oh! certainly,’ cried his faithful assistant, ‘no one can be really esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.’
“All this she most possess,’ added Darcy, ‘and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.’
‘I am no longer surprised at you knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.’
This is my seventh time reading Pride & Prejudice. The exact same copy. Dover Edition published in 1995 with the cream cover embellished with flowers and a peach and turquoise peacock. The pages have begun to yellow and each turn emits the smell of dust and vanilla. Memories are evoked: Being thirteen, falling in love with Darcy and finding a kindred spirit in Elizabeth; staying up late on summer nights, reading with anticipation despite already knowing the ending; placing it on the windowsill-cum-bookshelf of my first place altering my shabby surroundings into something of a home…
This is why I could never own a Kindle or get Botox. I’m too attached to my passing of time, the memories and talismans that create my history. The old books, faded photographs, a movie ticket stub from a first date that turned into a first love, or the increased lines around my eyes reflecting the joy and terror of parenthood. These small measures remind me where I’ve been, where I’m going, and most importantly, to fully invest in where I am.
And where I am right now is in the middle of summer. I take advantage of the long days filled with sunlight perfect for small adventures and excursions. I delight in the bountiful farmers’ markets filled with red berries, bright verdant zucchinis, and fuzzy peaches bursting with sweet juices that run down to my elbows. It is the summer evenings I take pleasure in the most, with its seductively warm breezes carrying the mellow sound of the serenading cicadas as the stars appear on their stage. These are the nights perfect for curling up next to someone comfortable, with a good book, and perhaps a piece of something tantalizing to share. One plate, two forks.
Summertime Peach Crostata
For The Pastry
2 3/4 C. All-Purpose Flour
1/2 C. Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
Freshly grated Zest of 1 Lemon
3/4 C. Unsalted Butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1 Large Egg + 1 Large Egg Yolk
1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
For The Filling
2 C. Peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1/2 C. Granulated Sugar
2 TB. All-Purpose Flour
For The Topping
1 Large Egg
Demerara, Turbinado, or Other Coarse Sugar, for sprinkling
To make the pastry, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Stir to mix. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, fork, or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of peas. (You can also use your hands, which is what I usually do.)
In a small bowl, whisk together the whole egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until well blended. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough is evenly moist and begins to come together. If the mixture seems dry, add a teaspoon or so of cold water. Transfer the dough to a work surface, divide with one piece sightly larger than the other, and form into two disks. Wrap separately with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
Position the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375°F. To make the filling, in a bowl, toss together the peach slices, granulated sugar, and flour. Set aside.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the larger dough disk into a 12″ round. Carefully roll the dough around the pin and position pin over a 10″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Unroll dough onto the tart pan and press gently, yet firmly, into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim edges of the dough, leaving a 1/2″ overhang. Fold the overhang over against the inside of the rim of the pan. Pour the peaches into the pastry-lined tart pan, spreading them into an even layer.
Roll out the second dough disk into a 10″ round. Using a pastry wheel or knife, cut the dough into 10 strips, each 1/2″ wide. Arrange half of the strips across the top of the tart, spacing them evenly. Give the pan a quarter turn and place the remaining dough strips across the top to form a lattice pattern. If the strips break, patch them together with a drop of water. Press the ends of the strips against the sides of the tart shell to seal.
To make the topping, in a bowl, whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the dough strips with the egg mixture. Sprinkle the strips generously with the coarse sugar. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the outer ring and cool until warm or room temperature. Cut into wedges to serve.
– From Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian
Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberly House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; – and in front, a stream of some natural important was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt, that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!
Excerpts from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.