Saturday, January 3, 2009

MAGICAL SATSUMAS

There are still a couple of Glad-Boxes of Christmas leftovers in the fridges; we bought WAY too many groceries for the expected crowd---still languishing are the two artichokes, planned for DD's enjoyment with blender Hollandaise; the bag of forgotten cherries, Gracie's favorite, left to grow saggish in the dark, whilst we ate fat grapes and slices of cold, crisp apple with our sausage balls on Christmas morning.

The "green" stuff needs using quickly, and in the cold room are still snapped-tight Tupperwares of all kinds of fudge and cookies and chocolate-dipped things.

I just encountered the small square box of Clementines, an at-least-once-a-year treat gone neglected, slid sidewise down between stacks of other stuff, the heavy little fruits held from dumping by the green net of their covering. Discovering a pile of THOSE a month later, following your nose to the bittersour tang of dead orange in the air and the velvety-blue of their moldy skins dusting the floor---not fun, and I'm glad I noticed.

I ate two for breakfast just now, and the sweet little nuggets of flavor, so near to orange, so breathy of tangerine---the taste reminded me of Christmas flavors all over again. But the prevalent memory is of the Satsumas we encountered one Summer long ago.

Looo-siana Satsumas!!!! It's a remembering that comes often, many years since the actual event, and it should be commemorated with choirs, harps, and a flock of little pink hearts---pale pink hearts, fraught with longing.

One day at my workplace, everyone had gone to lunch but me---I'm talking DEEP South here, so colloquialisms apply. A lady came into the office with both arms dragging low, from the weight of two of those orange-net bags into which fruit is sewn for transport. She gave two mighty swings, and plumped each upon the counter in turn. She said, "I've got Looo-siana Satsumas and Grapefruit---any of y'all wanna buy some?"

I took a look at the fruit, quite plump and heavy with juice, but the moldy-green of the surface was a bit aback-taking, to say the least. It was not the green of unripe; it was the green that floated on the FARRRR end of the drainage ditch which served the kitchen plumbing of our very rural home. The grapefruit was not quite so algae-ish, so I hefted the bag, realized it was FAR more than the ten pounds she allowed that it was, and said I'd take that one.

She sighed a regretful sigh and reached for the bridesmaid bag. Now, I can turn down anyone who gives an eyeroll sigh, an angry sigh, a who-do-you-think-you-are hummmmph, but her sad tote-that-barge resignation at having to lug that thing BACK out into that Mississippi heat and peddle it elsewhere---THAT was my undoing.

I said I'd take that one as well. Whole kingdoms and bits of history have hinged on less import than that one sentence. I lugged them out to the car after work, counter-threw them myself when I arrived home. After school, the children came in, took one look, and all gave an EWWWWW-flavored, "What is THAT?"

Fruit, I said, mentioning that I'd give it a good wash before we peeled it. I cut the Satsuma bag, dumped a few into the sink-bowl, ran cold water, brush-scrubbed. No swan emerged from the dirty-ducklings, just a fainter nasty green tingeing the peel, but we took life and ptomaine in hand and peeled one. The rind fell away easily, revealing contents that Faberge would have gladly displayed in any egg. The fruit was spectacular---a glorious golden orange with a luminous quality, almost like being lit from within, that I'm sure has been enhanced by time and longing.

The segments were sweet, with the orangey orange flavor that all oranges aspire to be, with great clusters of the tiny juice-sacs gleaming after the bite. I cannot describe the texture or the flavor or the color of those bits of happenstance---it was the best fruit we'd ever eaten, and for seconds, we all peeled one of our own, then another. Somehow, the five of us consumed half the bag between then and bedtime, finishing off the fruit in the next couple of days.

We still speak of it as the Miracle Satsumas, and will ever wander towards Goblin Market, hoping to find more. All the years since, any Satsumas in any market are greeted with a little lift of hopeful anticipation---wishing to find, hoping to taste just one more time.

I wonder if ANY could ever be as good. And still we hope.

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