Thursday, May 14, 2009

Oranges & Food

When I was a kid, I got an orange in my Christmas stocking every year. My parents grew up at a time when fruit in the winter was a rare treat, so citrus in December was still regarded with reverence by the time I came along, even though it was no longer as scarce.

This morning, when I was eating an orange for breakfast, I started thinking about those Christmas oranges. They were always the tastiest, juiciest bits of fruit I could imagine -- just brimming with sweet, wet, nectar. In contrast, the orange I was eating today seemed like a completely different species from the oranges I remember eating as a child, and it got me to wondering if perhaps we're eating a different kind of orange these days.

Last year, the Modulator alerted me to the problems the world is experiencing with our supply of bananas (they may be going the way of the dodo). And then more recently, in Marion Nestle's What to Eat, I read about delicious fruits and veggies that are now bred not for taste, but for a long shelf life and the ability to travel well. This is why tomatoes don't always taste as well as you remember -- when you were a kid, the tomatoes you ate were probably grown for flavor, somewhere nearby, but now, those same juicy yummy tomatoes would be rejected, because they wouldn't be able to withstand the trip to your grocery store from California or Mexico or Florida.

So, it occurred to me that maybe the same factors are being brought to bear on the orange. Maybe those juicy, sweet oranges of my youth (which I'm pretty sure were navel oranges) don't travel as well as the waxy, dry, mealy oranges that I keep finding at the store these days. Or maybe that olden breed of oranges was wiped out by a blight. Whatever the reason, I haven't had a decent orange in years, and I'm about to give up on the fruit. Grapefruits are more than able to satisfy my craving for citrus, and they disappoint far less frequently.

Does anyone out there have any wisdom to offer? Advice on finding an extraordinary orange? Please do share!

UPDATE: well, here's some upcoming food for thought...

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