Orange Nostalgia

January 3, 2017 in Foodland Chronicles, Health by Joyce Bunderson

Looking out of the window onto New Year brings the sight of snow clouds right smack up to the window. Our house was built to take advantage of the Wasatch front and Utah Lake views. Most days, all year long, we see beautiful sights …. canyons; clouds; brilliant red and orange sunsets and pink sunrises. When it’s the Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve, we see fireworks from the core of the 50-mile valley. This year, however, New Year’s Eve was filled with foggy-snowy clouds; we could hear fireworks, but not see them. Today, I began thinking about the non-stop white, dullness falling from the sky; my inner New Year needed some perky color. How about orange?

Orange not only frequently graces our early evening skies, but it is one of the stunning fruits of earth. Don’t you think so? I grew up in the San Fernando Valley; which was considered an Orange Empire from the early 1920s to the late 1950s. The housing boom squeezed the orchards out; but it didn’t happen instantly. Decade and after decade there were fewer orchards and more and more homes, there were and still are many citrus and avocado trees in the valley, but now one or two at a time, in residential and institutional yards and gardens. Although my children were born in the San Fernando Valley, they grew up mostly in Simi Valley and Moorpark – other citrus orchard communities. Until I moved to the mountain-west, sixteen and a half years ago, I always had a Meyer lemon, a naval and Valencia orange in the yard. What that meant was when you needed an orange or lemon you went outside and got it. It did not take up refrigerator space or counter space. One of the really nice things about citrus fruit is that, unlike stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, plums) it can hang on the tree for a quite a while; it doesn’t come splashing down in ripeness when you’re not ready for it.

Among my earliest memories of enjoying food is fresh squeezed orange juice; with the pulp; I especially enjoyed the pulp for some reason. My mother frequently ate grapefruit lightly sprinkled with sugar; I was less fond of it as a child. Now, I like the tang of red grapefruit without sugar.

You’ve heard the sayings about gaining appreciation for things that you no longer have. “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone;” for example. That was sure true for me; and the convenience of citrus trees in the yard. I enjoyed them, but having to go to the trouble to keep them in stock in the fridge is not nearly as easy as picking as needed.

I remember toward the end of my Master’s degree, one of my friends and I took off from UCLA to Stanford and Berkeley for some seminars. We weren’t far up the Grapevine (Interstate 5 – usually called the I5) headed north, when she pulled out an orange and bit into it; peel and all. She was from Wisconsin. Does that explain it? I had never seen in my entire life someone bite into an unpeeled orange and eat it like an apple. I offered to peel it for her, but she said that she loved oranges so much that the peel added to the experience. I was amazed. Yes, I’d used a zester, but seriously the entire peel was enjoyed. OK, I was flabbergasted!

I remember learning of the children that received oranges as Christmas gifts; mostly it made me just feel compassion. Oh those poor children who would be happy to receive such an ordinary food. But like my Wisconsin friend, they understood that eating a real orange is an experience to be savored, and it doesn’t have to be picked from your own tree to enjoy the experience fully.

Having said that, I want to share the orange nostalgia building in my dull white mountain-west New Year heart. Yes, I’ve had fresh mandarins (Cuties), navels, lemons, grapefruit and limes within the past four days, but I’m feeling a little nostalgia for the days of plucking them from the backyard trees. Now I realize that if oranges were not so readily available as in old times I’d still be thrilled to receive one or more as a gift.

One thing that got me thinking about oranges, was an interesting Washington Post article written by Tomas Heath. He points out that PepsiCo, the owner of Tropicana, is going after the health-obsessed millennials (18 – 34 year olds) to get them to drink their “feel-good morning beverage.” Millennials’ have turned their back on orange juice in an effort to move away from consumption of concentrated and/or processed sugars. Most commercial fruit juices are in the processed sugar category. Drinking fruit juice can skyrocket your blood sugar as fast as a can of Coke or Seven Up. It is true that fruit juice is loaded with the nutrients in the fruit, but the fiber is removed, which means it is not there to slow down the sugar, as it is in even fresh-squeezed orange juice. When you eat orange segments, you get quite a bit of fiber with your intake. So if you’re making the decision to drink soda, juice drink or fruit juice, choose the fruit juice, because it at least has the nutrients. It is not a good choice, as related to sugar consumption, however. Let’s not be confused; whole fruit and fruit juice are not the same.

Since I’m on a nostalgia track, I should mention one of the easiest ways to take an orange for a lunch or snack. While you’re at home, hold the orange at the poles (stem and bottom end) and make a thin slice, just through the skin from pole to pole. This cut will make it easy to peel the thin slices you’re going to make. Then slice all the way through the orange, across the thin cut 4 or 5 times (depending upon the size of the orange). You end up with 4 or 5 slices, “wheels” of fresh orange with hubs radiating out from the white center. Pop them into a sandwich bag. Wherever you or your child open the bag, you can remain almost drip free, using only your fingertips. The little slice in the peel pulls apart and offers little wedges of fresh orange, without a mess.

Tropicanna is trying to grow their business; which is selling juice made as profitable as possible by processing and removing parts that don’t keep well – I understand that. I’d like to see you (including the already health-conscious mellennials) grow their health this year. While at a luncheon today with my good friend, Gayle, she reminded me of a scene in the movie Christmas Oranges where the little girls bite into a fresh orange with the juice running all over the place. There is truly something precious about the sweet juiciness of fresh oranges. It’s magnificent to experience, especially if we’re filled with appreciation and gratitude that we live in an age that these brightly colored globes are an everyday option. Maybe we can include in our resolutions to become healthier, to move closer to whole foods and away from overly processed foods. I’m sharing my orange nostalgia (and a juicy way to slice them) with you and send my heart-felt wishes for a Happy, Healthy New Year.