If you’ve been here in Sevilla, you know that we are all about the Orange Trees. Hillsides and courtyards and plazas are dotted with this vibrant fruit and have been since ancient times. So when the oranges start to fall, rolling out into traffic and sliding into gutters, I am forced to wonder: where do the oranges go?
Apparently our oranges are bitter oranges and are most often used for jams and marmelade. Even though in your heart of hearts you want nothing more than to pluck a softball-sized beauty from the tree outside your apartment building .. that’s not a good idea. Sevilla is full of cars, and with cars comes air pollution. So these oranges aren’t the sweetest in the bunch (those come from Bollullos, where I teach .. but more on that later).
The word for bitter is amarga and it applies to this bountiful fruit. Workers drive around with 3 foot tall industrial strength bags and collect the ripe oranges all over the city. I’ve missed a few opportunities to talk to these guys, but the evidence of their work is everywhere. These oranges also star in several local liquors and wines – the Spanish are big on their after dinner drinks. I had a sip of one in Cordoba and it took everything I had not too contort my face into a visual of “ohmygodthisissosweetIthinkImaychoke” in front of the waiter who had graciously given us two glasses for free. Similar to the limoncello tradition in Italy, the Spanish often finish off a meal with an apertif / digestif.
In truth, after having fresh squeezed OJ in this city, Tropicana just isn’t going to cut it after this. Almost every Spanish cafe or restaurant has one of these excellent machines used for juicing, and I’ve seen some waiters make quite a spectacle of themselves – tossing oranges high in the air and into the machine that will squish it to a pulp for your drinking pleasure. I’m currently battling a cold and have been slicing these huge oranges in half and using our 75 cent juicer (from the Chino, obviously) in an effort to boost my Vitamin C. You know I’m already getting my share of Vitamin D courtesy of the Sevillano sunshine, but now I think I have yet another way to get my vitamins – by using my sense of smell.
Last weekend in Jerez I got my first whiff of the orange blossoms, or azahar. Now that spring is inches away from officially springing, the sun has trotted out the true glory of Sevilla in its flowers. When reporting back to my coworkers about my weekend, one of my teachers called the smell intoxicating (embriagador). That’s a fact! It must go down in the book of all First Smells. In winter, that crisp, clean scent of the first snow. In spring, the way the rain smells of damp earth. I swear the orange blossom smell is the smell of sunshine. In one motion, you tilt your face up and close your eyes, inhaling. Your shoulders rise with the effort of taking the deepest breath possible and the corners of your mouth turn up in a small smile. It’s a private moment, but if you take a second, you realize everyone else is having similar moments. Smells like .. spring!
thanks to foodmapper for the crazy juicer machine photo linked above. I’m going to go have a glass of juice..