Peach Cobbler and Prejudice

Gourmandistan prides itself on its inclusiveness and tolerance of all cultures and traditions, especially the edible ones. But xenophobia seems to be hard-wired into the human psyche, and even those of us who strive to be civilized may still retain traces of irrational antipathy towards certain groups. For Steve, this happens to be people from Indiana—something that did not help when a nascent Gourmandistan decamped to Indianapolis for about a year.

Long, long ago in an advertising galaxy far, far, away, a young copywriting Steve finally landed a position at a small, strange Indianapolis agency after being laid off from his Louisville job for several months. Not long after, Michelle had a brand new Indiana bar certificate and a job with a big-time law firm. We spent our first year of marriage working in the Indiana capital’s downtown, living only a few flat blocks up Pennsylvania Avenue in a lovely duplex we only belatedly discovered overlooked a corner where johns met their transvestite hookers. To Steve, however, those incidents were less bizarre than hearing people constantly address each other as “Hoosier” (a term his Louisville-influenced acculturation interpreted as an insult), or the idea that he should now support the loathsome Bobby Knight and the Indiana University (ugh, that word again) Hoosier basketball team.

Michelle, obvious to all who read these pages as a better sort than Steve, had less trouble with the whole “Hoosier” thing, though the smug late-Eighties Reagan Republicanism and general attitude of authoritarianism (in Indiana, the police would come to your door for overdue library fines and you could be jailed for expired license plates) really put her off. Our general impression of the city straight up I-65 from our former home was of a wonderfully vibrant and interesting metropolitan area that somehow had been filled with a variety of white-tinted folk who adored grid-based street systems and very large steaks.

As a young couple new to Indy we discovered things like Thai food and freshly-roasted coffee, along with pan-sized pork tenderloin sandwiches and a startling number of military monuments. We also discovered farmers’ markets, something tobacco-growing Kentuckians had seemingly forgotten, and a lovely lady named Terri, a work associate of Michelle’s who became our best (OK, only) Indianapolis friend. Terri was the perfect guest, a non-cook who loved to have us make meals for her, someone who was totally comfortable seeing a flour-dusted Steve stirring a pot in his pajamas while holding a cat.

Indianapolis was our first experience with buying local peaches from farmers off the backs of trucks. And we made the most of every spicy-sweet one of them, often making this Lee Bailey cobbler several times a week and inviting Terri over to share it.

We left Indianapolis and returned the the Bluegrass State after a little over a year, and sadly have not kept up with Terri as well as we should’ve. But we have kept making this cobbler, which has only gotten better as our Kentucky farmers have returned to better practices. (Hooray, tobacco settlement!)  And Steve keeps trying to recognize that yes, New Albany and Jeffersonville, Indiana, are just as much a part of “Metro Louisville” as Gourmandistan—and people can call each other “Hoosier” without making it an ugly thing to say.


(adapted from Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts)

  • 1-1/2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 TB unsalted butter, frozen and cut into bits
  • 1/4 c. solid vegetable shortening, frozen and cut into bits
  • 5 TB ice water
  • About 4 c. skinned, pitted and sliced ripe peaches*
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 4 TB butter, sliced thin
  • Several (preferably Demerara) sugar cubes

Place flour and salt in bowl of a food processor with a metal blade.  Add frozen butter and shortening.  Pulse until mixture is the size of small peas.   Add water, pulsing until mixture just begins to form a ball.  Be careful not to over-mix.  Form into a flattened disc and refrigerate, wrapped in waxed paper, for an hour or more.

Preheat oven to 450°.  Lightly grease a deep pie pan or some other approximately 8″ or 9″ ovenproof dish.

On a floured piece of waxed paper, roll dough out into a ragged piece several inches larger than your baking pan.  Pick up by paper and invert into the pan, allowing the excess crust to hang over the sides of the pan.  Heap peaches into the dish.  Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with the butter.  Turn the sides of the pastry over the top.

Place the sugar cubes in a plastic bag and crush with a meat pounder.  Don’t crush them to death—the jagged variations make them particularly good as a topping. Sprinkle over the top of the crust.

Put cobbler in oven and immediately turn temperature down to 425°.  Bake for 45 minutes, or more, until top is golden and fruit is bubbling.

*As Bailey notes, this dessert is only worth making “during the height of the local peach season.”  He appropriately adds that “[o]ut-of-season peaches, no matter how tempting they may look, just don’t do the trick.”


  1. How funny is this! My parents live in Fort Wayne, Indiana and have a second home in Louisville (long story). Indiana. Such a weird state full of contradictions and perfectly encapsulated by your description of an authoritarian state, a thriving state-wide Farmers Market intiative (so leftist/socialist AND Amish at the same time), and a place where brand-new duplexes can be built on top of prime tranny business.

    But your peaches. Swoon. We don’t have peaches yet. Stone fruit is just starting to come in. But your cobbler looks divine. Have you ever tried it as a galette?

    • Oh, yeah, you told us about the Louisville house thing—such a small, small world! And, wow, I’d love to hear about your parents’ experiences in Ft. Wayne! Indy was a strange place, at least in those days. And we weren’t kidding about the library fine thing. This librarian’s daughter (and my mother didn’t believe in library fines) was very surprised when the Indianapolis P.D. showed up at our door one day because of overdue books!

      I haven’t tried this particular recipe as a galette (though I have made other similar ones). You’ll note it has no thickener whatsoever and so it is very, very soupy. Which makes it great with ice cream!

      • It’s hard to tell whether or not they like it. I think they do, but I think it’s just because they have gotten comfortable.

        That being said, I think Indiana has changed a lot for some better and some questionable. I never remembered it being crazy conservative, but I floated with a pretty liberal crowd.

        I do notice when I go back that there are some people who seem to have taken a hard right (literally) into almost wack-a-doo town. What happened to all the moderates?!

        That is weird about the library fines. I can’t believe they did that!

        Ooooh, soupy peach cobbler and ice cream!!!!

  2. Few desserts get my attention like a peach cobbler. And, as Bailey notes, making one when peaches are in peak season elevates the dish to another level. Your recipe sounds like a good one and I especially like using crushed sugar cubes on the crust.

  3. That’s very funny. The idea that someone would have antipathy to people from Indiana is so foreign to me — I’m not sure I’ve ever even met someone from Indiana (I get it confused with Iowa). We in California feel antipathy toward people who move here from other places (most particularly New Yorkers), and then talk about how much they love the place they came from. (“Look, we don’t actually NEED more people in California. If you love your home state so much, I’m sure they’d be pleased to have you back!”)

    • Oh, yeah, it probably deserved more explanation. The KY/IN thing goes like this: The same jokes are told; it just depends on which state you live in, which state’s residents are referenced in the punch line. And it’s the same in the Cincinnati area for KY/OH. Though the silly basketball rivalry makes the IN thing more acute. (As KY never has any good football teams, it doesn’t really care about OH’s infatuation with that sport.) So, to add another sports reference, it’s inside baseball (which KY doesn’t like either). And to think, all this from someone who despises sports!

  4. Some people just take a longer time to just accept others for who they are. I’m part of a mixed race couple and it’s still unnerving to get stared at though this has happened less and less over the years. Food is a great leveller and your peach cobbler looks amazing.

    • Oh, no, surely there’s no staring! That makes me so sad. Maybe they’re just thinking “I wonder what delicious food that Asian woman is making that guy for dinner.” I hope so anyway.

  5. Oh, your photos!! I love the light. And this looks delicious. We lived in Georgia for a number of years and used to buy boxes of peaches from roadside stands or trucks outside the city (no GA peaches to be found in the supermarkets). They were incredible. Okay. Now I want some cobbler!

  6. I wonder where the word “hoosier” came from — it sounds really strange! In Canada, we have an old slang term for a loser that sounds similar, “hoser”. This slang came about because, way back in the day, the losing hockey team had to hose down (which would resurface) the ice after a playing game — thus, hosers were losers.

    Anyways, your peach cobbler looks lovely! I can’t wait for peach season to come around where I live! 🙂

  7. I love buying fruit off the back of trucks. Makes me feel like I’m living on the edge. My only experience of Indiana was when I drove through there on my way to the west coast. All I remember was that it was pleasingly greener and hillier than Ohio.

    Nice big busy fuzzy bumblebee!

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