Thursday, August 25, 2011

Attempting Citrus

I had my first orange today.  Alison and I went to little corner store that has good produce and bought a couple oranges.  I thought we were buying one for her and one for me, but I later realized that one orange was much sweeter than the other and that having a back up (or a comparison) was a brilliant idea!  Alison peeled them and then we talked a little bit about the “pith”—another foreign concept to me. 

Now oranges have played a weird part in my personal history.  I watched my father drink a glass of orange juice every morning when I was a kid.  I could smell it and guess what it would taste like.  I’m told the doctors and nurses would get very excited as they fed me spoonfuls of orange juice as a child and I reacted “just like the textbooks said”!  Every soccer game, during half time, the other girls would swarm around and gobble up orange slices.  I had a little Ziploc bag of apples and felt quite left out.  Once or twice I’ve been asked to go to the store and pick up a few lemons and limes, only to arrive at the store and realize I was probably the worst person to do this job.  I still have no idea what makes a good lemon or a good lime.  I’ve been going on the “firm, not squishy” rule for most fruits.  I have no idea how successful that has been , because I’ve never eaten a citrus fruit I’ve picked out.  Alison cut open a key lime once and I raced over to smell it.  “Oh, they smell like Froot Loops” I said.  My early experiences with citrus were Froot Loops, apparently, so maybe my base of reference is off.  In college, we had a creative writing assignment to describe eating an orange.  I bought a mango and made a complete mess trying to cut a mango with a plastic 
knife in my dorm room all while typing.

So pith.  It’s a funny word to say.  My only two references to pith are “pith helmet” and “pithy”—neither of which allows me to understand orange pith.  My first instinct is to peel it off. It’s like the skin.  Web dictionaries define pith as connective tissue in plants.  It is also referred to as the skin and the underlying essentials; the core of something.  For the longest time, I thought “pithy” meant shallow and thin.  It actually means the opposite—something meaningful and weighty.  Again, none of this helps me.

Alison tries to discourage me from picking at it too much and just eat it.  I’m curious, though, and I like picking at my food.  One small move, however, and a very cold squirt hits me just above my eye.  Another rookie mistake.  Mental note: don’t do that again.

I really want to get off as much of the white stuff as possible.  I pry the wedge apart.  At this moment, (perfect timing as always), Alison says “it’s like a whole bunch of tiny petals.”  This is brilliant because I was thinking it looked like a whole bunch of hairs and her way of thinking is much more appetizing.  This is another texture notion.  I’ve been trying to find a comparison to it, but I don’t have one.  There were all these little tiny juicy pods squished together in a pre-sliced package.  I want to be able to pick out each tiny little pouch and eat it.  Or poke each one and pop it—like bubble wrap!  Oranges are unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before. 
I like them.  I like how juicy and pre-sliced they are.  Alison says they are the perfect snack—portable, juicy, and good for you.  Honestly, I really like this whole pre-sliced fruit idea.  It feels very neat and futuristic to me. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Personal differences

I actually think several people have taken my pleasure or displeasure in a food to heart.  Liking or disliking a food is not a personal judgment of whoever suggested it. If someone happens to like Butterfingers, so be it.  I don’t.  So I won’t eat them and I also won’t condemn anyone who does.  I also don’t like water chestnuts or ricotta cheese, but no one is saddened when I don’t eat their manicotti—only when I don’t like the chocolate.

Someone recently told me that taste is flavor plus texture.  I had never thought of it that way.  In college I took a physical anthropology lab where we talked a lot about DNA and biology.  One of our experiments involved testing how sensitive we each were to bitterness.  I won’t go into the details of the actual experiment, but I was extremely sensitive to bitter.  I was the most sensitive in the class, actually.  Apparently it is a genetic trait and the rest of my family would be very sensitive too.  The theory is that way-back-when on the savannah, the ability to taste bitterness would have been advantageous because poisonous plants often have a very bitter flavor and, therefore, my ancestors were less likely to die from eating a poisonous tubers.  Today, it just means I don’t like a variety of vegetables.  I don’t eat foods beets or radishes, turnips—all things that have a tendency to taste bitter. 

Citrus is interesting, too.  I am very sensitive to citrus flavors as well.  I can taste little traces of it in cookies or ice cream—all that lemon zest!  But the ability to taste citrus is due more to the fact that I haven’t had a lot of it in my life.  It’s a foreign flavor to my tongue.  I’m not suggesting that I have one of those palates like a sommelier or food critic.  Far from it.  I can’t differentiate a lot of flavors like coffee and chocolate; they both taste the same to me.  Similarly, dark chocolate and dirt taste a lot alike to me as well.

But texture is an interesting idea.  I remember hearing once that diets based on pureed beverages are likely to fail because people will quickly begin to crave crunchy and chewy foods.   Our bodies are programmed to want a variety of textures, most likely in an effort to maintain a balanced diet.  Sometimes evolution is so amazing!  I’m very curious about how one’s personal eating habits shape one’s taste buds and preferences.  It also just makes me want to keep tasting new things!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Perhaps caramel is my ketchup

My favorite new food, so far, is Simply Caramel Milky Ways.  I just love them!  I think chocolate and caramel are a wonderful combination.  Kudos to whoever first put them together! (Ooh, speaking of Kudos, I should add chocolate granola bars to my list!) 

I tried Rolos.  Another caramel and chocolate combo—what could go wrong?  A friend of mine once told me of when she met the Dalai Lama.  She watched as he was receiving various gifts from people he met and then quietly handing them off to one of his attendants who took them off somewhere.  When someone handed him a pack of Rolos, however, he put them in a pocket of his robes!  So the Dalai Lama likes Rolos, huh?  So I tried them and meh.  I wasn’t thrilled.  In fact I was a little disappointed.  They have a bizarre taste as if they are not quite sweet, but almost like they used bad milk when they made the milk chocolate. Oh well, I don’t take the Dalai Lama’s fashion advice or respect him for his amazing dancing skills. And I can still have faith in him and be respectful even if I don’t have to agree with his taste in chocolate.

Anyway, it occurred to me that maybe what I like is not the combination, but simply the caramel.  I love French fries.  But I know that some people eat French fries not because they like French fries so much, but because it is a convenient way to eat ketchup.  Ketchup becomes the object; the fries are merely a means to an end.  Many foods have fallen victim to this passive eating role in cuisine.  I almost feel bad for them, but then I remember that it’s mostly vegetables that this happens to, and duh! They don’t have any feelings!
So perhaps I haven’t been swept away by the chocolate-caramel bliss.  Maybe I’ve just been thrilled to have an excuse to eat the sweet caramel that I’ve always liked.  Perhaps caramel is my ketchup.  I had to know.  I bought a bag of caramels.  Very good.  Verrry good.  I happened to have one in my purse; I’m eating it right now.  It is portable—unlike chocolate.  Yes, I do like caramel—a lot!

And then yesterday, the family I work for bought a whole bunch of bite-size Simply Caramel Milky Ways.  I wanted to bless and damn them in the same sentence, but I wasn’t sure how to do that.  I took one and in that first bite I knew: yes, I like caramel, but the combo is what is truly incredible.    

Hot and Cold

I’m amazed at how different chocolate foods can be depending on weather it’s warm or cold.  I don’t know many foods that change that drastically depending on temperature.  Meats—sure, and like a cheese sandwich and a grilled cheese sandwich are different, but again these are cooked.  Chocolate changes without being cooked, just warmed or exposed to the heat of say, a car in the summer time, or a few minutes in the freezer.  Actually, I’m quite surprised at the melting temperature of chocolate: it’s much lower than I thought.  It’s like every chocolate thing I buy, can’t make it home from the grocery store.  And then I feel like a glutton because I’m trying to eat it all before I get home—I don’t live that far from a grocery store!

The first time I tried Justin’s peanut Butter Cups, I wasn’t crazy about them.  But I put them in the fridge and once they were cold, I liked them more.  Why is that?  Is it the temperature?  The extra crunch?  Sometimes, however, I don’t like the cold chocolate.  I tried to re-form a melty Milky Way the other day and nearly broke my teeth!  It was like biting a brick!  And Milky Ways are, so far, my favorites—but not when they’re cold!  It’s a dramatic difference for one product.

So I bought a Toblerone Bar the other day and had like three little pieces of it and then I brought it home, and it was all melted, but I kept it wrapped up and in its little triangle box.  When I opened it up later, I could still see the “B-L-E-R-O-N-E” imprints!  I thought it was so funny!

Monday, August 8, 2011


In some ways I wish I began eating chocolate during the winter months.  I have a tendency to leave chocolate in the car, that’s all. I’ve never had a snack that I couldn’t just toss in the car with me.  If I brought my lunch somewhere, I’d always put it in the fridge at work.  But this take-along snack that can’t spend even five minutes in a hot car—it’s crap.

I’ve had to re-set numerous candy bars already because they couldn’t make it home.  Does this compromise the quality of the product?  Does it affect the taste?  It sure as hell is a pain in the ass, I’ll tell you that.
Of course, if I had begun in the winter months, I would probably be pining for lemonade and orange soda season.  I haven’t tried any citrus yet.  I’m a little afraid still.  I’ve had strawberries (meh, I still prefer watermelon, or peaches or cherries or pineapple).  And I think I want a lemonade slushy to be the first thing I try.  But I don’t know where those are sold.  I never paid attention.

It’s hot outside.  I don’t use the air conditioner at home—it’s too expensive.  And I rarely use it in the car unless the boys are with me and we are going a long way.  I rely on the warm summer breeze to take the edge off, sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t.  But I’d rather be too hot than too cold. Chocolate is not compatible with this life style choice.  Like a car loses value the minute you drive it out of the lot, thus a candy bar loses its solid state and melts the moment you walk out of the store!  

Over the past week, I’ve forgone lunch in favor of a candy bar.  It’s been a meal supplement, calorie wise, not nutritionally.  Nutritionally, I think I’m doing a very poor job.  I never thought I was a very healthy eater, but without chocolate, I was eating better than I thought.  I had fruit with breakfast every day. I ate peanut butter and raisins whenever I had a craving for salty or sweet.  This past week, I’ve had M&M’s instead of all of those things.  I’m not proud.

I’ve been craving vegetables and savory protein. And sugar.  I want sweet stuff.  I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but it hasn’t had as many options before!