Wednesday, March 12, 2008

gettin' fresh

Things I love about living in Arizona: a short list.

  • Lots of sunlight
  • A winter that I blinked and missed

My entire understanding of the nature of citrus has been inverted. Seriously. It's like the difference between OJ from concentrate and genuinely fresh-squeezed orange juice -- a totally different beast, right? My first fresh orange was like tasting single-estate Valrhona after a lifetime on Hershey's kisses. I'm only exaggerating a little. And the grapefruit? I feel wealthy. My breakfasts seem so incredibly indulgent when I get to slice open a pink-filled little miracle and eat it, every morning. I must be rich, to be able to afford a luxury like that...

I'm in love -- I can't believe that I ever felt otherwise. I never understood! I was absolutely astonished a few weeks ago when suddenly there was fruit everywhere -- I had no idea that citrus season was in February. Suddenly, I was over for dinner at Steph's house and before I knew it I was plucking grapefruit and tangelos straight from the tree. (It's a big deal -- get it?) Roadside markets were popping up with bags and bags of fresh-picked fruit, super-cheap. People were bringing shopping bags full of oranges and lemons to the work site, to the office, and just giving them away -- "Please," they'd say, "Take them! I have so many!"

They didn't have to ask twice. These are oranges that are sweet, grapefruits that are flavorful without a hint of acrid harshness, tangelos whose rinds practically fall off as they beg to be eaten. Have you ever eaten an orange that was hard inside, a little bit dessicated, a little bit sour? I never will again. I couldn't bear to. I never even knew that oranges could be so sweet, and yet still tart.

My free supply of citrus is dwindling -- the season must be wrapping up. So now I have to buy my grapefruit, at 12.5 cents a pop. It's kind of dreadful. But I can't help it -- I can't stop eating them. Oranges and grapefruits and little juicy, tart tangelos, oh my! There's this ad campaign -- "Eat fruit. Devour oranges." And I laughed the first time I saw it, and then tried an orange plucked straight from the tree and I was hooked. I was devouring.

Mm. Look at that grapefruit.

Let's talk about localvores. Not about politics or money or practicality or health or any of that nonsense -- let's talk about peeling open an orange from your backyard, about really, really fresh produce, let's talk about the color and flavor of fruit that is still alive. Kitchen gardens, farmer's markets, beat-up trucks with the bounty of the earth piled in the back, a huge and rusty cornucopia... let's talk about food that wasn't bred for its shelf life or ease of transport, not designed to be bruiseless, not coated in wax and refrigerated and packaged and stored. Let's talk about fresh.

It's like a whole different kind of food.

1 comment:

tom said...

Although you would not know by driving through it, Phoenix really got its start as a place where the fruit and vegetables that were grown in the surrounding valley were sold. That surrounding valley is all pretty much asphalt and houses now. The productivity of the land decreased while at the same time the value of its sale price for development increased. It makes for a fascinating and environmentally tragic history.