Thursday, January 26, 2012

They're Here!

It’s blood orange season! It’s blood orange season! I was at TJ’s today, and I saw them there. Piled into a heap, they looked so unassuming. As if they didn’t know. As if they didn’t care how wonderful they are. It would have been easy to pass them by, but I caught a glimpse of the tell-tale dark red skin and I knew—they had arrived!
I absolutely love blood oranges, ever since I first discovered them in Avignon. I had never had one before, growing up in Illinois. We got your standard citrus there, but nothing so exotic as a blood orange.
“Orange sang” is what they are called in French. Which literally does translate to “blood orange”. My friend there introduced me to them. She got so excited when she saw them, and I wondered what the big deal was. Why get so excited about an orange? I found out soon enough.
Just looking at them, I could tell they were unusual. Parts of them looked almost black. They were mottled and ranged from deep red-black to light yellow. I peeled back the odd skin to reveal an even odder flesh. It looked almost like stained glass. Each little corpuscle of juice was a different shade of orange. Some were ruby red, some were deep orange, some almost clear. It was fascinating just to look at them. I held one section up to the light—that amazing Provencal light—and it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I don’t’ know, maybe I don’t get out much, but I’m still fascinated by those little sections of fruit.
And I haven’t gotten to the taste yet! The flavor, how could one describe it? Well, it’s impossible, really, but the closest I can come to it is that it tastes like perfume. Not like chemical, store-bought perfume that, if you’re unlucky enough to get a spray of it in your mouth, you know is not a flavor to relish. No, it’s more like the taste of the smell of the most exquisite perfume that nature could concoct. It’s nothing like a naval orange. Or a Clementine. Those are fine, they’re wonderful, and I eat them in masses. But the blood orange has a flavor all it’s own that makes me swoon. The first bite of the season of the first orange is completely orgasmic. My knees nearly buckle. It’s divinity. It’s the juice of the gods.
In fact, if I were a god, I would eat blood oranges all year. I would bathe in them. I would wear them in my crown. I would fill my royal chamber with them.
I guess I’m a little maniacal about them. And maybe part of the their appeal is also their rarity. Not every grocery store carries them, and never all year round, like naval oranges. They have a specific and finite season: February.
February also happens to be my birthday month. Living in Minnesota, there is not much to like about February. In fact, there is much to despise. It’s smack-dab in the middle of winter, Spring is a lightyear away, everything is frozen and dead and covered in a skin of road salt, dirt, and ice. February is totally depressing. Or it would be, could be, without the lovely presence of “orange sang”. I feel like it is nature’s birthday gift to me. It’s nature’s way of apologizing for February, and trying to make amends.
I don’t think I will ever like February in Minnesota (unless global warming really kicks in and we end up with the climate of Texas), but I feel a little better having the gift of the blood orange. I feel like it is mine, it belongs to me somehow. In all of its odd beauty, its fragility, its terrifying name, it’s mine.