The orange and I go way back. I grew up in Miami, so I have many fond memories of this refreshing fruit — walking past the bakery that made orange cakes, the smell of the groves as my family drove up the Florida Turnpike, the carefully sectioned after-school snack prepared by my mother from the tree in our own backyard. Then there were all those barefoot summers when my skin turned a bright precancerous orange.
Citrus was our tropical icon. It represented a primary reason my family and others had abandoned the north for a life among the fruits. It was the perfect symbol for being a Floridian, its thick, leathery skin so similar to those pioneers who cleared the swamps and built the railroad, those alligators that still thrived in the roadside canals, and that Gloria Estefan.
Oranges were so cheap and plentiful in southern Florida that when they couldn’t be properly disassembled by a responsible adult, we kids would just cut a hole in the top, then suck out the juice and discard the rest. To this day, I drink OJ with my breakfast every morning without fail, except for the month I spent in India on business where they thought watermelon nectar was an adequate substitute. Silly Asians.
The orange doesn’t give up its sweet sunny taste easily. I typically eat the flesh only when it’s been carefully extracted by a hired hand and put into a fruit salad. Some varieties have been bred to make it slightly easier to get inside, though that convenience is often traded for taste. Those bastards the tangerines come closest to attaining a proper balance, yet I feel like a traitor to my homeland to consort with such mutants.
Recently at work, management has brought out various food pellets to encourage us to work longer and harder during our busy season without needing to leave the room for nourishment. (I half-expect a Porta-John to appear soon next to my cubicle, so other biological needs can also be taken care of with equal convenience). In addition to the candies, donuts and meth-infused lollipops, we’re also given fresh fruit to spur on our activity levels. Among these are several bags of oranges, so I thought I’d revisit my youth and try to eat one whole.
The following photographs chronicle my attempt:
Finally, the interior is laid bare and I can pick the juicy morsels from among the gravel of the parking lot. Now all I have to deal with are the seeds, membranes reminiscent of discarded condoms, and stringy white hairs that serve as the fruit’s last defense.
Orange, if you didn’t want to be eaten, why did you have to be so difficult to master?