The grapefruit tree in my garden is bearing fruit for the first time. Two grapefruit are almost ripe for the picking. Judging by the abundant flowers on the tree, there will be more.
I love cutting up fruit, especially those that do not need peeling, like apples and pears. As I prepared a bowl of hotel oranges for my partner the other morning, I remembered the first time I saw someone cutting grapefruit using a grapefruit knife. I was six years old. My vegetarian aunt had come to stay. She was standing at the kitchen counter as far away as possible from the stove, where my mother was cooking eggs and bacon for her husband and my father. She was happy and calm. My mother said she seemed to be cutting up an awful lot of fruit for just one person. Vegetarians are like that. I scrunched up my face when my aunt joked about having a lot more space in her body for fruit and vegetables since she did not eat meat, and my dad laughed and said she was taking the pith. She said it would make sense to me one day.
My interest was in the knife. My aunt said that chefs at hotels used them because it was the right tool for the job. That may well be, but I never mastered the art of using one.
Hotel oranges are what I call oranges with all the pith surrounding their individual segments removed. Strictly speaking, the ones pictured below are not hotel oranges. I can make neat hotel oranges using an ordinary serrated knife. But the other day, instant gratification won over perfection, for the oranges were freshly picked from our tree and very sweet. I know, because I tasted the first piece I cut.
The grapefruit knife story is not why I call oranges cut thus hotel oranges. The term is to differentiate them from hockey oranges.
Hockey oranges are often sour. They are cut in quarters (or eighths), and left unpeeled with the piece of pith on the soft edge sliced off, if you’re lucky. Hockey oranges are partially covered with blades of dry, brown, winter grass from the southern African hockey pitch of your childhood.
Now you know.
©2017 Allison Wright