Finishing lunch I turn to my wife and smile big. “Do I have fleas in my teeth?”
It’s a potential danger up north, where fruit flies appear out of nowhere, dive into your wine glass, and drown. In the last ten minutes I’ve probably swallowed a couple of them
“You didn’t look.”
I smile, she looks. “No.”
I know what she’s thinking: Peach cobbler. Up here I think water, lake, swim. She thinks dessert, fruit, peach cobbler. And for good reason. Years past we have had late summer cobblers with late summer fruits—to wit, peaches—that are memorable. That’s understatement for her. More than mere memorable, they are shining moments. This year we have come up short.
First night, after rabbit stuffed chicken and trout with oxtail, we survey the list of sweets, seeing all the usuals—creme brûlée, profiteroles, cheesecake. We settle for peaches and cream. It’s a good settle, but still, it’s a settle.
Next night, two racks of venison (one each) followed by a sampling of ices: lemon, strawberry, and plum. Cool and refreshing, splashy on the palate. But it’s a consolation dessert. Our server tells us they had peach-plum-cherry cobbler a couple nights ago. We should have been there.
“Damn,” my wife says.
Where we go now, we start asking. Where?
At Trish’s Dishes, between bites of breakfast burrito, we ask our server, probably the Trish in question, where’s the cobbler? She might be thirty. She has blue and purple feathery tattoo all down her left arm. Ordinarily I am not a fan of the sleeve. She has a nice sleeve. Makes me wonder what the locals think about a woman with permanent arm art. Which gives me pause: Are there locals? I mean originals? The population I see, in the restaurants and shops, is new arrivals and old arrivals, non-indigenous.
The rest of us are tourists.
To all of them, the locals wherever they are and the old and new arrivals, we tourists must seem like the real invasive species; unmanageable, mostly destructive.
“Try Nine Bean Rows,” Trish says. “Over by Lake Leelanau. They make pies. They might do cobbler.”
While she and my wife talk I watch three old guys come in. They’re skinny. They take small, careful steps. They wear bill caps and young guy t-shirts. Montana Law. Moose Drool. Captain Curtis. I don’t guess they would be locals. I’d say old arrivals. They wave at Trish. Would they know cobbler?
So, Nine Bean Rows.
Later that day we’re cruising beside the lake, and I see two cormorants flying low over the water, sleak black cruise missiles nobody loves, birds that eat a quarter of their weight in fish every day. Thanks to zebra mussels, another invasive species, the cormorant population is on the rise in the Great Lakes.
“Do we really want a pie?” I ask my wife.
“Well,” she says, “we’re up here.”
We drive past a place called Nature’s Rentals. Makes me wonder what part of nature they might rent. Maybe I could rent a deer. How much do they get for a deer? Maybe $30 a day? No doubt a buck would fetch more. There oughta be a law.
“But a pie is big. Are we going to eat a whole pie?”
“Let’s just check what they have.”
Nine Beans is closed. I’m kind of relieved. That night we duck in their restaurant in Sutton’s Bay. No cobbler on the dessert menu. No fruit.
Cobbler, I learn, originated in England. I will not tell my wife this. Aside from Shakespeare and Dylan Thomas, and on a good day me, my wife doesn’t like much of anything with England origins. How cobbler got to be named cobbler is not clear. A 14th century English word for a wooden bowl, cobeler, is a possibility, as is the word for the street paving stone, and in fact that muffin-like pastry ball all glopped up and syrupy among the peaches in some cobblers does look vaguely cobblestone-like. We are partial to pastry spread over the top, both of us, but will accept the muffin thing in a pinch.
Finally, according to my etymology dictionary, an early American cobbler was a summer drink made with wine and crushed ice and fruit slices. My wife would appreciate this detail. At home, meaning both in the US and in Italy, she slices a peach into a glass of wine, often two or three (peaches and glasses, that is). There is a reference to this drinkable cobbler in Washington Irving in 1809.
These days cobbler is many things. What makes it not pie is no pastry on the bottom. Let’s be clear about that.
Our last day we are close to giving up hope when Art comes to our rescue. The Art’s Tavern Art. They have not one but two cobblers on the menu this day, peach and sour cherry. They are the cobblestone pastry cobblers, glopped up and syrupy with fruit.
Can we get them warmed?
Scoop of ice cream?
That’s how they come.
They come. And they are…not good. Art’s is more than a burger bar, but first and foremost Art’s is a burger bar. The cobblers are short on fruit and just have a pretty-quick, made in-high-volume quality.
My wife takes a bite, shakes her head. Oh well.
She says, “What kind of bird was it we saw?”
“Cormorant. And it’s the zebra mussels that are non-indigenous and have caused all the trouble. They filter the water, make it clear. Easier for the cormorant to find a fish.”
“I’d like to get a heron,” she says, “for the yard.”
We must have driven by a yard art place, over by Nature’s Rental. I ask: “Don’t we already have a metal heron?”
“That’s an egret,” she says. “A heron looks different. A heron looks more like Richard the Third.”
This one takes me a minute. She says things like this. Reminding me: I love her way more than cobbler.
It’s the week after Labor Day, and Art’s is packed. All around, old guys in young guy t-shirts and bill caps. Nobody is having the cobbler.