saying goodbyes, and a recipe: peach cobbler bars

The story I’m sharing probably has nothing to do with the recipe at the end, the peach cobbler bars – or maybe it does, a little. So, if you’re just here for the food (and I don’t blame you), feel free to scroll to the bottom for the recipe. However, if you’re here for the words, thank you.

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peach cobbler bars | the merry gourmet

I had my own bedroom when I was a kid. I never had to share with my little brother, which was good, because mostly, back then, he drove me crazy. My bedroom was at the back of the house, far away from my parents’ room, and at night, every night, my mother would put me to bed. After turning the lights off, she would stand in the open doorway, her body a dark silhouette surrounded by the glow of light from the bathroom across the hall. Each night, she wished me goodnight, and then she slowly pulled the door part way closed, but not all the way. I liked having the light streaming in.  It helped me feel less alone at night. The light made the goodnights – the goodbyes – easier.

In my bed, I made sure that every inch of me was covered by my blankets, despite the warm, muggy air that filled our house. The window next to my bed was open partway but only a stirring of air seeped inside, barely stirring the sheer, once-white curtain. Crickets chirped in the dark outside, filling the silence with their songs. Our old Florida cracker-style house had no air conditioning back then – and my parents wouldn’t have it installed until I moved away to college – so we relied on open windows and rotating fans to keep cool. Or perhaps just a little less hot.

Along with the blankets, I piled my assortment of stuffed animals, at least twenty of them, on and around my pillow, arranged in a fan around my head and tucked under each arm. I wanted them close, where I could grab them quickly in case of an emergency.

For a period of time, I was afraid of fire, irrationally afraid, and I was convinced that our old house would go up in a blaze one night while we slept. I worried that my parents would die in the fire, and that I would end up alone, with no mother or father. Each night, for many nights, I lay in bed, nightshirt damp with sweat from the trapped heat of the blankets, staring into the dark at the low ceiling above me, with my heart pounding and my chest tight with fear.

I developed a plan, though, and that plan involved climbing out my open bedroom window and taking my stuffed animals with me. If I saved them from the fire, I wouldn’t be alone – we would have each other, my animals and me. I had these thoughts for nights on end, and each night, I surrounded myself with the stuffed animals, each within grabbing distance, and I anticipated the fire that never came.

I know now that I was simply afraid of being left behind, of having to say goodbye to people I loved – or of not even getting a chance to say goodbye.

Saying goodbye remains difficult for me. When I leave my family to travel for work, I get that racing heart feeling, that “What if something happens while I’m gone?” feeling.  When my husband travels without me – a rare occurrence, but it happens – I often feel my chest tightening in the days leading up to his trip, the anxiety mounting slowly but reliably as I struggle to push it away.

And so it is ironic that I’ve chosen a profession in which saying goodbyes are part of the territory. A majority of the territory, in fact.

I said my goodbyes to a patient this week. I’ve known her, cared for her, for the last several years. I’ve treated her with chemotherapy, and I’ve held her hand and comforted her when chemotherapy stopped working. I’ve learned about her life before cancer, her children and her grandchildren, her unwavering faith. She had a major setback about a month ago, while in another state, and she stubbornly refused to make decisions until she spoke with me. I smiled when I learned she did this; it is so very like her to be stubborn to the end. And this setback, this one, tragically, is a big one. The final one. The one that can’t be surmounted.

So I held hands with her and listened as she told me that she was ready to go. That she had made peace with God and that she wasn’t fearful. She thought I would be disappointed in her, and that she had let me down. This was her biggest fear. She wasn’t afraid of death. She was afraid she had let me down. I squeezed her hand even tighter, not wanting to let go. Not wanting to say goodbye.

I’ve learned over the years that while goodbyes are painful, they can also be beautiful. Goodbyes are a critical part of life, and they can be – should be – a vital part of death.

And being able to say goodbye? Having the chance to say it? Why, it’s the most important thing of all.

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 And so this has nothing to do with this recipe except that we’re saying goodbye to our peaches as summer wraps up. I also wanted you to have a recipe, since it’s been so long. Too long, really.

peach cobbler bars | the merry gourmet

Peach Cobbler Bars

I adapted this recipe from a Southern Living recipe. I’m one of those people whose favorite part of a cobbler is the crust, so this recipe suits me just fine. Heavy on crust, with peaches taking a backseat (well, maybe the passenger seat), this is an easy way to serve cobbler on the run.


16 tablespoons (2 sticks; 227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (220 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
1-1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar, divided
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3-1/4 cups (406 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups peeled and chopped fresh peaches
1-1/2 tablespoons bourbon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Beat the butter, light brown sugar, and 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar with an electric mixer (or in a stand mixer) on medium speed until creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together baking powder, salt, and 3 cups (375 grams) flour. Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Spread 3/4 of the batter in the pan.

Stir together the remaining 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar and 1/4 cup (31 grams) flour in a medium bowl. Whisk in cinnamon. Add peaches and bourbon and toss together to combine. Spoon peaches over batter evenly. Dollop the remaining batter over the peaches. Bake for 1 hour, until golden and bubbly. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 1 hour. Cut into bars.

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26 Responses to “holding our breath, and a recipe: peach basil sorbet”

  1. 1
    Nutmeg Nanny — July 12, 2013 @ 9:25 pm

    Losing a loved one is rough. We all know the pain and the desire to make them better. I’m sorry you and your family are going through this. Lots of love, prayers and good thoughts are being sent your way.

  2. 2
    Rachel — July 12, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

    Geez, MJ, what a crazy mess you’ve been through lately. Your parents are blessed to have you in their lives as are your children. You are all in my thoughts and prayers through this difficult time.

  3. 3
    Katie — July 12, 2013 @ 9:31 pm

    Oh MJ… sending so much love and prayers your way. Brighter days are ahead for you and your family. You just need to get past all these thunderstorms.

  4. 4
    Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon — July 12, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

    Even having been through the journey of losing a parent, I don’t have the words to comfort you and your family. I am so sorry that you are going through this. If you want a shoulder to vent, cry, laugh on….let me know. Sometimes life just sucks.

  5. 5

    MJ, you’ve had more than your fair share of heartbreak this year. If I could, I’d give you a big hug and make you dinner. You know it’s what we do, as food people. It is our way to feel and our way to comfort. My love is with your family as you say goodbye.

  6. 6
    Macaroni Mama — July 12, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

    Cutting up peaches is equivalent to me doing the laundry and loading the dishwasher and feeling like I accomplished something out of an entire day. Basically, I live in the moment . . . and wait. Love you and Sam <3

  7. 7
    Winnie — July 12, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

    Sending love, and wishing you peace, MJ.

  8. 8
    Amy — July 12, 2013 @ 10:55 pm

    Oh sweetie … what a year for y’all. And what a great example you both are of how to honor your parents. Your children will be blessed in so many ways from your strong commitment to being present, especially through the rough times. Hugs to y’all! xoxoxo

  9. 9
    Nancie McDermott — July 13, 2013 @ 12:06 am

    The words and pictures and recipes you share here are precious to me. You give so much to many people of which I am one, when you post here. Thank you for it all. It is peach basil sorbet for the spirit. I hope you will feel surrounded by love while you walk this path with your family.

  10. 10

    Sending you lots of love and hugs MJ. Your and Sam’s dad are so luck to have you around. XO

  11. 11
    Cathy — July 13, 2013 @ 7:12 am

    MJ, what a long slog. I’m so sorry for all you and your family are coping with now. At the same time, I think of how fortunate your children are – to have YOU there to comfort and console, and to explain these very adult concepts. Sending white light and love, Cathy

  12. 12

    Chopping and sautéing always relax me. I’m sorry your family is going through such a difficult time.

  13. 13
    Jessica L. — July 13, 2013 @ 10:30 am

    Oh MJ. My heart goes out to you. I can’t imagine the stress and pain you’re going through. I truly hope things start to get better soon.

  14. 14
    cherie — July 13, 2013 @ 11:05 am

    Amazing how such a crushing thing can become a part of your everyday lives.

    Prayers for your whole family

  15. 15
    Kiran @ — July 14, 2013 @ 10:48 am

    My heart goes out to you and the family, MJ. It’s just too much to go through for the last few months and you all are so strong. Sending you much needed hugs.

  16. 16

    I am so sorry to hear about your father in law. We are also dealing with the challenges that come with aging parents… both my father in law and my grandmother have been through a lot these last few weeks. For the rest of us, it’s been all calendars and scheduling and making sure that things are in order to make things as easy as possible for them.

    Sometimes we just need to do things for ourselves… like making a tasty dessert. Something to distract us from all this.

    Stay well, my friend. And I look forward to seeing you in a few weeks!

  17. 17
    Carol Sacks — July 14, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

    I marvel at your strength and grace. Take care of yourself.

  18. 18
    Kathryn — July 15, 2013 @ 10:49 am

    I’m so sorry, my thoughts are with you and your family xx

  19. 19
    Paula — July 15, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

    Christopher Reeve is quoted as saying *A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.*
    You and your husband are heroes to your parents, your children and to your friends. As exhausting and emotionally draining these times are for you, may the two of you continue to persevere with abiding love and patience for though your fathers may not be able to communicate it to you they know that they are deeply loved and cared for by both of you.

  20. 20
    B C Pitcher — July 16, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

    Just wanted to thank you for your beautiful grace while life is swirling in sad directions you had not intended to go.

    Your emails with these wonderful recipes woven into the fabric of some very tough “real life” stories are so comforting and help bring life into a clearer focus.

    You are high on my list of people I admire. I wish I could help ease your burden. It’s been a nearly 10 years since we lost my father-in-law, my husband’s grandfather, my mother and my father in the space of 2-1/2 years. In that time we also lost 3 close friends, 2 to cancer at less than 50 years old. Looking back, the main thing I remember is not how horrible the pain was, but how many instances of amazingly generous from love friends & family surrounded us. Remembering that doesn’t diminish the loss, but it sure makes it easier to face new days with new trials to know how much love surrounds us.

    Your abundant love and honesty give much hope to many readers. Just wanted to thank you.

  21. 21
    Di — July 17, 2013 @ 10:15 am

    Breathe, please. The following quote is one of many I go to when I am especially disouraged……

    Courage doesn’t always ROAR. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow” – Mary Anne Radmacher

  22. 22
    Elizabeth — July 18, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

    Oh MJ, this is just heartbreaking. Loss is always so much harder when kids are involved. So many tough questions that just aren’t easily answered. I’m keeping your family in my thoughts and hoping for the best. So sorry I won’t be seeing you next weekend, but it’s clear you’re needed where you are.

  23. 23
    Meagan — July 18, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

    I am so, so sorry for the difficulty that your family is currently experiencing, MJ. Watching parents age is so tough, and there is no manual, no easy way to experience it and not feel like you’re just stumbling through the process. You and your family and your father-in-law are in my thoughts and prayers. Sending you hugs and warm thoughts…

  24. 24

    I am sorry for so much going on in your life but I admire you and your husbands strength. May you guys continue to stay strong. Sending you lots of positive thoughts.

  25. 25
    Nutmeg Nanny — July 22, 2013 @ 11:02 pm

    Sending lots of good thoughts to you and your family at this time. On a lighter note, this sorbet looks just delightful!

  26. 26
    Jaime — August 2, 2013 @ 8:07 pm

    Such sad but poignant words. My husband and I are going through a similar situation with his father. Waiting for an inevitably sad ending is the hardest thing. My thoughts are with you and your family.

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