Saturday, January 30, 2010

A lesson in citrus

As I was making dinner tonight for my dear friend, Mandy, who just had a baby, I was confronted with one of my own inadequacies. I do not know how to properly cut citrus. You may find yourself in the same unfortunate predicament as me, and perhaps it's never bothered you. Perhaps you don't even realize that you are a below average citrus cutter. But it is a shameful state for someone who grew up in a "Citrus Family."

You see, my grandfather had a huge lot of land and grew all types of citrus. Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, name it. I have, on multiple occasions as a child, climbed a tall ladder to pick various types of fruit when I would visit him in Florida. You may not know that it's important to twist the orange off the tree instead of just pull it or you may leave part of the orange still on the branch. You may not know that citrus ripens in the winter. You may not know that if you are making fresh squeezed orange juice you should not squeeze the orange too tight or it will taste bitter. You may not know these things, but I do because I grew up in a Citrus Family.

To further prove my point: If you have never seen my father eat a grapefruit, you have missed out on one of the most entertaining natural phenomena in the world. With his grapefruit sliced in half and lightly salted, he will attack and devour that thing in 30 seconds or less. He does not look up. He does not breathe. And you might lose a finger if you get to close. That man is serious about his citrus!

Most years growing up we would get an enormous load of oranges from my grandparents. Each Christmas morning we would all enjoy a bowl of freshly cut oranges with our Christmas brunch. There is an art-form to cutting citrus that I observed each year, but somehow never caught on. A truly gifted citrus-cutter can peel an orange in one smooth circular motion taking off all of the rind, none of the pulp, and leave a beautiful spiral of orange peel. After this, the gifted ones can go in and out in between each segment of the orange, cutting out the flesh and leaving behind the pulp. This motion is fluid and fast and produces perfect bite sized pieces of oranges that burst with flavor in your mouth. This was the ritual that I would watch year after year as my grandmother, dad, mom, and sister would huddle around the kitchen sink.

But, alas, as I worked diligently today to bless my dear friend, my citrus salad did not turn out so beautiful. I didn't get the fluid motion down and resorted to using my fingers to pull out the pulp. This resulted in "shredded grapefruit" instead of segmented grapefruit. You could literally drink the grapefruit through a straw the pieces are so small. I did not even attempt the process with the oranges and just cut them in chunks, pulp and all. A total disgrace.

So, my dear Mandy, please forgive my inadequacies and I hope you are still able to enjoy the salad. I'll bring some straws just in case!

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