George and I have a winter morning routine. One of us walks the dogs whilst the other one sections the grapefruit. In our old age we have become very fond of the tangy-sweet “burst of summer in your mouth” that only a really perfect grapefruit can afford. The problem is finding it. Between December and May, perfect grapefruit is our quest. I know, it ‘s not exactly the Holy Grail, but it keeps us active and hopeful. Each morning we savor the first spoonful and evaluate the grapefruit of the day. Perfection includes great flavor, abundant juiceyness, and–the most difficult element to procure–perfect sweetness.
This year started off slow. We’ve had great luck with other fruit from Costco. They have particularly amazing berries, so we decided to buy a whole bag of grapefruit at the beginning of the season. It was not so great. The flavor was there, but it was a bit dry and not sweet at all. We were disappointed but not discouraged, after all the season was young. We soldiered through the entire bag. We talked all last year about trying Fresh Market, gourmet grocer that it is. George always says he would love to go in there just to take pictures of the produce because it is so lovely. One night we stopped by and bought some grapefruit. These had more juice, but were still not very sweet. That was a difficult blow from which to recover. We had such hopes. We got some better fruit from Food Lion and even Wal-Mart. That was encouraging because last year Wal-Mart’s grapefruit was THE WORST. (Notice that we never give up on Wal-Mart.) This year’s prize, however, goes to Harris Teeter, our local upscale grocery store. We ran in there one day for something else and found the grapefruit on sale. We bought three and wished we’d gotten more. AMAZING! I’m afraid the season has been downhill since then.
My husband grew up in Miami, and long ago his father taught me how to choose citrus. The most important thing is shine. You want the fruit to be “tight”–no “dimples” in the skin. Tight skin indicates high juiceyness. Also, he taught me not to pay any attention to color. Brown spots or other blemishes, as long as they are only on the surface, do not indicate inner flaws. From my mother comes the sectioning skill, though I do not go as far as she does–removing the whole membrane and letting the wedges fall free into the “bowl” of the rind. Who has time for that? She even gave me her old grapefruit knife.
So, there you go. Don’t let anyone tell you that old age is boring. There are always new challenges in life., always new quests to keep you going and inspired. There’s always something to look forward to–like that burst of wake-up flavor in the morning. Here I sit on the first day of spring break, writing about grapefruit when I am supposed to be finishing my graduation speech and running two miles. This is probably because I have developed a bad case of nerves and a light case of shin splints…. Oh well, I had a pretty good grapefruit this morning, so I should be good to go.