How to eat an orange

Philadelphia has had a “Stay at Home” order in place for about three weeks now. While both of us are pretty used to being at home together nearly 24/7 (we both work from home normally), I have started to take up some of the common “quarantine” activities these days. Namely, baking.

In general, we’re homebodies, but the psychological difference between choosing to stay at home and needing to stay at home is significant. I struggle the most with feeling like there’s a difference between my weekdays and weekends since 90% of my time is spent on my computer, in my office, regardless. Baking is one thing that helps.

So far, I’ve made banana bread (with some very old, frozen bananas to make room in the freezer), regular bread (which was surprisingly easy), and biscotti. We’re also developing a new tradition of me baking, asking Gustavo to taste test, and then immediately saying, “But don’t eat my half!” (Otherwise it would all be gone in a flash.)

Feeling a little more confident in the kitchen now, I started exploring how difficult it would be to make sfogliatelle. And, it turns out, not so difficult. (I was imagining a multi-day process like croissants, forgetting that Italian food usually doesn’t require so much patience and self-control.)

With that in mind during our last grocery run, I decided to buy some clementines so I could use the skin to make candied orange peels (well, clementine peels) for the filling. We’ve been working on eating our fresh produce as quickly as possible. Which means I’ve been eating a lot of clementines.

And every time I eat one, I can’t help but think of an ongoing argument Gustavo and I have: how to eat oranges.

***

It all started back in Rio when, one day, I grabbed an orange from the kitchen. Our old apartment had a large countertop looking into the living room, so we would often stand there while snacking and chatting. Orange in hand, I started to pick at the skin to remove it and eat the orange.

Gustavo stared at me and asked what I was doing.

“Eating an orange?” I said, confused by the question.

What ensued was a comical conversation about how to eat an orange. In Brazil, you cut open the orange with a knife to slice and remove the wedges from the skin. In the US, you peel the orange like a bear discovering a picnic box. It’s nature’s packaging, after all.

A few months later, I was at a work event talking with a colleague from the US and another colleague from South America. Somehow, the topic of oranges came up.

“Let me ask you a question. How do you eat an orange?” I said, wanting to test a new theory.

As expected, the person from South America answered “with a knife” and my fellow North American, “you peel off the skin.” I started laughing immediately, as my coworker asked, “Are you joking with me?”

“It’s a North America/South America thing!” I messaged Gustavo, probably without any context. But I was proud of my discovery. Who knew?

***

While our days are punctuated by lots of anxiety, fear, and concern – for ourselves and others – I find myself coming back to this little joke we have between the two of us. Each time I pick up a little orange fruit, it gives me a chuckle. Which I appreciate, since it’s all about little joys.

After all this time, it’s still fun to find areas where we have differences that we never would have learned or come across before. These little day-to-day expectations that we were raised with and that we never questioned, because we never thought to question them. So as we spend even more time between these four walls together, we’ll see what else there is to discover (and to eat).

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