Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ode to Grapefruit

When I was a kid, my mom would peel grapefruit for us. She would take the outer-skin off, but she would also peel the pith away from the juice vesicles--the pulpy bits that hold the juice. This is a visceral memory for me. I can see her hand--palm down, fingers cupping the fruit--dripping juice as she passed each bit to one of us kids--my siblings and whatever cousins were around--or my dad. I can see her throat when she would lean her head back and eat one of the sections herself. She would put the peelings in a bowl on her lap, which a towel would cover. After peeling a few grapefruits, she tossed the peels to the chickens or on her hardier plants. She only did this with grapefruit. With oranges, she would roll them on a hard surface, put her thumb through the peeling, and suck the juice out, or occasionally, she would slice them for us, but grapefruits were special. Always special. My dad is the only person in the family that I can recall eating a grapefruit any other way. He would peel it with his knife and eat it like an apple if we were outside, or slice it in half and add a little salt if we were inside. Everyone else would wait until Mommy felt like having grapefruit.

For a long time, I couldn't figure out my mom's technique. Every time I would try to peel away the delicate liths--the skin that makes the segments--I would end up bruising the fruit and end up with a soggy mess. It was still good; it just wasn't magical. It turns out her technique is patience and practice.

Grapefruits are my favorite citrus, and I haven't had any good white grapefruit yet this season. White grapefruit can be hard to find in grocery stores. Most sell the pink kind, but I have always been partial to the white grapefruit. It's smaller, and a little more sour, and it's what we always had growing up. This last weekend at the market at Lake Eola, I bought a big bag of white grapefruit. Tonight, I peeled two grapefruits. The kid saw the towel and bowl laid out near me, and probably asked five times if I were going to peel grapefruits tonight. The grapefruits are delicious, just like the older man who sold them to me promised; my hands smell wonderful; and my little one is perched on the arm of my chair like nothing so much as a baby bird or me as a child waiting for the wonderful fruit. If I were Pablo Neruda, or a poet at all, I would write an ode to peeling grapefruit, but since I'm not, I'll blog about it. That's nearly as good, right?


  1. Your description of grapefruit and the peeling process is making my mouth water. Any chance you want to peel me some grapefruit?