There is something about winter that just screams citrus fruit to me. I have memories dating back to my brother’s middle school band fundraiser when he would sell our family big boxes of grapefruits and oranges in December, or my aunt and uncle sending up boxes of grapefruit in February from Florida where they ‘wintered’ between the months of January and March. I remember when I studied abroad in Italy, my first night there- homesick in January- my host family served tangerines for dessert. The father could tell I was out of sorts, so while we were sitting at the table, talking, he peeled his tangerine very carefully, creating one consecutive piece of rind and leaving the center rind attached to the bottom of the peel. Then he fashioned the peel back into a sphere with the central rind standing up in the middle. He poured some olive oil down the ceter rind (which formed a puddle at the bottom) and lit it on fire so as to turn the once tangerine into a glowing citrus flavored candle. And then of course, there were winter mornings before school when my mom had to leave for work before I woke up, but unfailingly left a half cut open grapefruit with honey on top and a piece of toast for breakfast on the counter for me.
What is it about these citrus fruits in winter? I mean, obviously, they are also around in summer, but my memory of them in winter is so much more vivid and alive. Maybe it’s that there are no other colorful fruits for them to blend in with. They are like a beacon of light against the cold harsh surroundings outside. And being the health-nut I am, it also intrigues me that these Vitamin C laden delights become so front-and-center during precisely the months that we need an extra immune system boost. Coincidence? I think not.
Could it be some unique form of cultural technology passed down through generations? In Peru, there are special trade markets throughout the Andes mountains; people who grow potatoes and corn near the top of the mountains trade with those who grow mangos and avocadoes in the warm (almost tropical) climate at the bottom of the mountains. In parts of Europe, there is a wintertime tradition where seaside dwellers pack up loads of salt preserved anchovies and transport them inland where they are sold and regarded as delicacies. They are also, not-surprisingly, one of the only sources of Vitamin D that inland dwellers have access to during the cold winter months. Am I picking up on something bigger than a strange wintertime affinity for citrus fruit, or am I crazy? Do people in, I don't know, Montana, have these same citrusy experiences and cravings (or other people in Michigan for that matter)? It's unclear, and to some extent irrelevant. All I know is that, despite what I think of as my somewhat hardened immune system, I've already been sick twice this season, and am trying to ward off yet another case of the sniffles at this very moment. So tonight when I get home from work, after I take a hot shower and bundle up in my PJs, this is what I'm going to be eating. Feel free to join me!
Hot Grapefruit Delight
(Inspired by my Mom & the infamous Hot Tottie)
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut a whole grapefruit in half and place it on a cookie sheet in the oven for 10 minutes or until the grapefruit looks like it’s bursting with juice.
3. Remove the grapefruit and drizzle some honey over top.
4. Return the grapefruit to the oven for another minute or two to let the honey melt.
5. Remove the grapefruit from the oven and place each half in its own bowl.
6. Let the halves cool a bit then cut around the pulp and between the individual segments of pulp so that it is easy to dig pieces out with a spoon.
7. Pour a shot of your favorite whisky or bourbon on top and enjoy.
NOTE: The following step is my favorite and is only for the brave and savage food lovers at heart.
8. Inevitably, no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to cut around the grapefruit (Step 6 above) in such a way that you are afforded easy access to all the delicious juice sacs contained inside. So, once you have eaten all the segments of grapefruit with a spoon and have scraped away at as many of the little juice sacks as possible, take the half-grapefruit in your hand and squeeze the juice into your bowl. Then turn the pulp inside out so that the interior becomes fully exposed. Wrap your mouth around whatever hidden treats you can find. Then (ravaged grapefruit peel aside) poor the juice from the bowl into your mouth and revel in the satisfaction of having experienced the full extent of the Hot Grapefruit Delight!