07 February 2011

On the Fine Art of Eating Grapefruit

'Tis the season for Texas Pink Grapefruit. I only just found out from a friend who spent some time in Texas that this is the superior variety of grapefruit. I was oblivious to grapefruit quality, previously; I don't eat them that often, so didn't appreciate that it's only now, in winter, that they're as good as this. But now I know. Texas Pink- too delicious.

We're not big grapefruit eaters in this house (hence my ignorance). I was first introduced to grapefruit-eating as a child in Germany, by an uncle of mine. He had spent some time in England and had learned to appreciate English Breakfast there, with its obligatory citrus fruit. Now, I'm thinking, in retrospect, they must have been a very different variety than the lovely Texas Pinks. Like Onkel taught us, we always smothered the top of the grapefruit half with a thick layer of sprinkled-on sugar- and yes, I had a very sweet tooth (okay, okay, I still do), but the grapefruit must have been considerably more sour and bitter, as well; doing that to a Texas Pink would be an abomination.

Now, as to The Fine Art of Grapefruit Eating. Start with one, lovely, round, pink Texas grapefruit (you can substitute other varieties, but it won't be quite the same). Take a sharp knife- I find a serrated bread knife works nicely, but actually, I just use those because there's usually one sitting around on the counter when I do this part of the process. Slice the grapefruit in half, right across its fat little belly. Get a spoon. It has to be a smallish spoon, teaspoon-sized, with a slender bowl and fairly pointy tip- the opposite of an egg spoon, in fact ("The Fine Art of Boiled-Egg Eating" will be another chapter in our series How to Eat Breakfast: The Artistic Way). Now carefully examine the cut surface of your grapefruit, admiring its luscious rosy-orange hue and juicy delectability as you do so. What you are looking for is the perfect starter segment. It has to be large enough to dig your spoon into without crushing the neighbouring segment, but you don't want it too large- the largest one is better saved for a later point in the process. You also don't want it to be situated directly next to a very small segment. Now, being right-handed, I eat my grapefruit in a counter-clockwise direction (I suppose left-handed people might go clockwise? If you are a Left-handed Texas Pink Grapefruit Appreciator, do let me know your grapefruit-eating rotation- it might be a valuable contribution to science.). So I make sure that the segment to the right of my starter point is the right size and shape to be suitable to its role of "last segment eaten". If it's too small, you can't get it out without crushing it, and that would be a shame. So, you have determined your starter point, your oh-so-suitable spoon is poised over the sparkling jewel-like surface- and you plunge in. With a careful twist of the spoon, at just the right point, your first bite comes loose. Aaah- an explosion of flavour, tartness and sweetness vying for your attention- grapefruit at its finest. Chew, swallow. Now, with the flat side of the spoon, carefully loosen the membrane that used to separate the next segment from the one you've just savoured. Pull it aside. Then wedge the spoon behind the next slice, and gently lever it out. Aaah- an explosion of... (oh, never mind). So you gradually lever-and-explode your way around the whole circle, counter- or clockwise as it suits you, until you come to the last piece, which you just sort of dig out- levering won't work any more because there's nothing to brace the spoon against. Okay, so now there's just one more thing to do: get a large spoon, like a soup spoon. Pour into it all that lovely juice which has puddled in the bottom of your grapefruit half- the more skillfully you've levered, the less juice there'll be- and tip it down your throat. Aaah- an explosion... (yeah, whatever).

Life, the Universe, and Texas Pink Grapefruits. Tune in next time to our series How to Eat Breakfast: The Artistic Way, as we explore the crunch and crumble of "The Perfect Piece of Toast".

03 February 2011


Yesterday, dear people, was St Brigid's Day. Also Groundhog Day, Imbolc, and Candlemas, which, I think, really all amount to the same thing: they're the half-way point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.

Groundhog Day is when the groundhog comes out of his hole, does a tap dance on Bill Murray's head, and if he (the groundhog, not Bill Murray) goes back into his hole we'll know that "Groundhog Day" will still be available in video stores at the end of this year. Imbolc is a heathen festival invented by the Celts, and I'm sure it had something to do with fertility (those heathen festivals usually do). Nowadays we shun said heathen customs on account of their irreligiousness (Easter eggs, anyone?). Candlemas is a much more religious holiday, where, umm- I'm not sure. But I do know that it had something to do with lights, and candles, and that it was the day when European farmers made or renewed contracts with their labourers, way back in half-past-celtic times. And St Brigid's- well, St Brigid (the Irish one, not the Swedish one- the latter has a "d" in her name, supposedly) was the counterpart to St Patrick. I thought I'd read somewhere that they were actually close companions and friends, sort of like Saints Francis and Claire, but I guess I got that wrong. She started a couple of convents, a men's and a women's one, in Kildare, Ireland, and was- get this- an actual bishop. I guess they were a little more open-minded in the 6th century. And then, Wikipedia says, "[w]hen dying, Brigid was attended by Saint Ninnidh, who was afterwards known as 'Ninnidh of the Clean Hand' because he had his right hand encased with a metal covering to prevent it ever being defiled, after being the medium of administering the last rites to 'Ireland's Patroness'." Now I'm wondering where the term "ninny" comes from.

I like feast days, don't you? I think we don't celebrate nearly enough in this day and age. So I don't rightly care what yesterday was called, or what you did to keep it, or even if the feast day was exactly yesterday (some say St Brigid's is actually on Feb. 1st, not 2nd. Whatever.). Pull up a holiday, and celebrate it.

Life, the Universe, and Groundhog Day. Happy Celebrating!