Orange Peels

We ate dinner as a family when I growing up. Every night we’d gather at the kitchen table. My mom is handy in the kitchen, and she would cook most nights. As I got older, I would help. When I really young, there’d be all six of us – me, my parents, and my three older siblings – but as I grew older, the number got smaller, and the amount of dinners we ate together decreased. My oldest sister, Laura, went to college when I was nine, and my brother followed four years later. Then, when I was in middle school, I was on a swim team that practiced from 5-7pm (and my other sister, Sarah, was too) but my parents saved plates for us most of the time, and when they didn’t, it usually meant that we could stop at Burger King or Leo’s Coney Island on the way home.

I’ve been reminiscing about my childhood family dinners this past weekend, particularly about my dad. I remember how he could be really engaging and fun during meals. He would bribe my sister to eat mushrooms, which she hated (for the record, she started eating them when she was older and now loves ’em). He always had riddles and jokes, and on special occasions, he would ask Buck Questions, a game he invented that involves increasingly difficult trivia, science, or math questions and $1 prizes which became a tradition in my family that we still play.

I don’t remember dessert being a big part of our family dinners. On occasion my mom would make a apple crisp, or we’d have some ice cream, but dessert wasn’t a daily occurrence. My dad always ended dinner, though, with fruit – he still does – and that’s what got me reminiscing about family dinners to begin with.

After he was finished with his meal, my dad would take his plate to the sink, then pick up some oranges from the fridge. He’d sit back down with a steak knife, and start turning the orange into the blade of the knife, and before long, he had removed the peel in one long piece. You could pick up the peel, and it would look like a slinky. He’d offer orange slices to anyone that wanted them, and when the first orange was gone, he’d pick up another one and do the whole thing again.

When I was older, he used to let me try to peel the orange, but I was nowhere as good as he was. His peels seemed perfect – a uniform thickness from end to end, and he would remove the white pith, too, without ever sacrificing any of the orange flesh. My dad is a master at peeling an orange. I watched him do it the last time I saw him, when I was in Michigan in September.

I wrote yesterday about how I picked up some oranges from the unlikeliest of places, the parking lot at Home Depot. I came home with seven oranges. I juiced one of them, and on Sunday, I looked at the remaining six and decided they’d all be practice oranges.

I want to peel an orange as well as my father can!

Attempt #1:

Pretty good pith removal, but the peel broke in two places, and it’s uneven in thickness. I can do better.

Attempt #2:

Check out this peel!

All in one piece! It’s a little thick, though, and the pith mostly stayed on the orange:

I have four more oranges. That’s four more attempts. I’ll probably try it again at least once today.

I love a good fruit challenge!

Keep it up, David!

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3 Responses to Orange Peels

  1. Jenny Dahl says:

    My dad had the same talent – only he used apples instead of oranges. I think apples were cheaper back in the Dark Ages – we only got oranges around Christmas. He’s been gone since ’87… I sure miss that ol’ man. Thanks for sparking good memories! 🙂

  2. Michael Garcia says:

    This is Dad, David, and what a treat to have you remind me of my orange peeling thing. Remember that after the peel there was one more ritual, biting and pulling off the end of the orange where the stem had attached removing part of the pith that entered into the axis of the orange. If done right the bite resulted in a clean long pull-out with the flesh neatily preserved. You kids found that that was a big challenge too. Thanks for the memories. Those days are the most cherished of my life.

    • David says:

      Oh yeah! I forgot about the biting part. That worked best with navel oranges, didn’t it? Maybe that’s why I forgot – I’ve been buying Valencias. I also remember when you and Mom came back from your cruise in the Caribbean and you were very excited to share a new peeling trick with us that you learned from your cruise ship waiter – which involved carving the peel into the shape of a man, with the stem/center axis pith piece being his giant erection. Ah, memories! 🙂 xo

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