Mar 15, 2014

citrus


Everything, Jos was saying to Pascal, Sebastian, and Franklin, can be done well. The art of eating an orange, watch. We want all the juice, jo? The long blade of your pocketknife, whetted truly sharp, with which we make a triangle of three neat jabs in the navel of this big golden orange picked by a Spanish girl with one breast jundying the other. Lift out the tetrahedral plug so sculpted. Suck. Mash carefully and suck again. Now we slice the orange into quarters, sawing sweetly with the blade, so there's no bleeding of juice. Like so, O puppy tails. One for each of us. Nibble and pull: a mouthful of tangy cool fleshy toothsome orange. And Sebastian has squirted his all down his jammies, the world being as yet imperfect. Eat a bit of the peel along with the pulp: not as great as tangerine peel, as preferred by God and several of the archangels, but still one of the best tastes in the world. Seeds and the stringier gristle into the trash basket. Swallow the seeds and they'll grow an orange tree out of your ear. People who don't know how to eat an orange, like people who don't have the patience and cunning to pick all the meat out of a walnut, who don't eat peaches and apples skin and all, do not have immortal souls.
guy davenport, "wo es war, soll ich werden," in the death of picasso


In the morning, in the soft sultry chamber, sit in the window peeling tangerines, three or four. Peel them gently; do not bruise them, as you watch soldiers pour past and past the corner and over the canal to the watched Rhine. Separate each plump little pregnant crescent. If you find the Kiss, the secret section, save it for Al.

Listen to the chambermaid thumping up the pillows, and murmur encouragement to her thick Alsatian tales of l'interieur. That is Paris, the interior, Paris or anywhere west of Strasbourg or maybe the Vosges. While she mutters of seduction and French bicyclists who ride more than wheels, tear delicately from the soft pile of sections each velvet string. You know those white pulpy strings that hold tangerines into their skins? Tear them off. Be careful.

Take yesterday's paper (when we were in Strasbourg L'Ami du Peuple was best, because when it got hot the ink stayed on it) and spread it on top of the radiator. The maid has gone, of course—it might be hard to ignore her belligerent Alsatian glare of astonishment.

After you have put the pieces of tangerine on the paper on the hot radiator, it is best to forget about them. Al comes home, you go to a long noon dinner in the brown dining room, afterwards maybe you have a little nip of quetsch from the bottle on the armoire. Finally he goes. Of course you are sorry, but—

On the radiator the sections of tangerine have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, pull it open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow of the sill. They are ready.

All afternoon you can sit, then, looking down on the corner. Afternoon papers are delivered to the kiosk. Children come home from school just as three lovely whores mince smartly into the pension's chic tearoom. A basketful of Dutch tulips stations itself by the tram-stop, ready to tempt tired clerks at six o'clock. Finally the soldiers stump back from the Rhine. It is dark.

The sections of tangerine are gone, and I cannot tell you why they are so magical. Perhaps it is that little shell, thin as one layer of enamel on a Chinese bowl, that crackles so tinily, so ultimately under your teeth. Or the rush of cold pulp just after it. Or the perfume. I cannot tell.
m.f.k. fisher, "borderland" in serve it forth.


Oranges were once the fruit of the gods, to whom they were the golden apples of the Hesperides, which were stolen by Hercules. Then, in successive declensions, oranges became the fruit of emperors and kings, of the upper prelacy, of the aristocracy, and, by the eighteenth century, of the rich bourgeoisie. Another hundred years went by before they came within reach of the middle classes, and not until early in this century did they at last become a fruit of the community.
john mcphee, oranges.

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