A box of mineolas landed on my doorstep yesterday. When I saw the big white box with the words “Fresh Florida Citrus” touted out in orange and green upon the side my first thought was “fuck.” As in, “what am I going to do with four trays of oranges?”
I’m a Florida farmer’s daughter – I may not be so great with the ‘rithmetic but I can figure up the contents of a “tray” of citrus dependent on size of the fruit contained near instantly. I figure fourteen/fifteen mineolas to a tray. So that’s ………… 4 trays of oranges that I have to figure out how to dispose of.
I opened the box and, man, that fruit looked beautiful. Mineolas are mid-sized, have somewhat loose skin, are seedless and heavy with juice – and if you grew up in a yard with lots of beautiful citrus tress just seeing them laying there gives you the urge to start shredding skin and peeling off slices.
At first I had this backwards urge to grab a knife and take the citrus that was already in a huge box on my counter out into my back yard and start eating them there. It wasn’t the fact that I was barefooted that stopped me (better that way, anyway!) but the fact that I was feeling sick. Such a weird first thought for a girl in a gated community, eh?
Growing up, oranges were food that were to be eaten outside and outside only. My yard had a huge, mature white grapefruit tree, a pink grapefruit tree, a little bitty navel tree, a pretty small tangerine tree, a tall, shady mandarin tree, a thick trunked, regular old sweet Florida Orange tree and to round it out the non-citrus way a big, bushy loquat tree. All of these trees bore messy food – even the loquat since it had a big seed in the middle that necessitated it’s being spit onto the ground.
The proper way, in my humble O, to eat an orange requires you to first properly pull it from the tree. To do this you want to leave a good chunk of the skin with the stem you pulled the hesperidia from. That way you already have a point at which to start peeling. Peeling is kind of a no-brainer. You should take caution, though, not to damage the flesh of the fruit which would just make the whole thing a lot messier than it already is. Once you’re done peeling it’s time to peel some more. Citrus comes pre-sliced by mother nature so there is no need to take a knife to an orange when you’re outdoors. I’m not against gnawing off a hunk like it’s an apple but that just leads to needless stickiness. Peeling the individual carpals from one another and eating them one at a time is the most enjoyable and least messy way to dine on an orange right off of the tree. Trust me, folks. I’m a Floridian.
So, as it turns out, I’m really enjoying this box of fruit. I haven’t taken one outside to eat yet but every time I engage in the ritual of peeling the skin off of one or smell the pungent oil from the rind squeezed onto my fingers I can see my little brother and I playing in front of mom’s greenhouse which was shaded by the the big orange tree. I can see my dad in a flannel shirt and jeans with juice dripping from his beard. I close my eyes and I still have my childhood dog, I still play barefooted in my treehouse, still pull my little brother around in our wagon, still climb the camphor trees, still live on farm land surrounded by orange groves and still haven’t the slightest inkling how much I should cherish this existence.
I had no idea a box of mineolas had such power – but I’m glad they do.