I’ve been eating oranges my whole life, and as such, have experienced oranges in many forms: from cold, fresh slices during the half-time of a soccer game, which we sucked down eagerly as the excess juice dripped down our sweaty faces, to oranges dipped in chocolate and orange-flavored chocolates, from oranges the size of my face that I found in Athens, to those minuscule little mandarins and tangerines, with that sweet citrus scent that clings to your fingers for hours. I even have trekked to the orange capital of the world: Valencia, Spain, where my sisters and I shared freshly squeezed Agua de Valencia by the beach. And lastly, who can forget my old standby: Tropicana Pure Premium No Pulp Not From Concentrate Orange Juice with Calcium + Vitamin D, which has been with me in sickness and in health these 24 years…
With this quarter-lifetime of orange-eating experience, I had come to consider myself something of an expert on the subject.
And then came Nicaragua.
It was my first week in training, a beautiful January day in 2011. My host family and I crammed into their personal microbus and scaled the rugged Nicaraguan terrain until we ended up at my host brother’s baptism on a beach of Lake Nicaragua. As we watched family members and friends wade into the water, Walter handed me an orange that looked something like this:
He watched me. I began peeling back the skin that was oddly and clearly mistakenly left on the orange. “No!” he says, laughing. And then he did something amazing. He pulled out his own orange, bit away the top, and sucked out the juice in T-minus 30 seconds. “Now you try,” he told me. So I did. I got some juice on my face, but managed to suck down most of the juice without disaster, and he nodded approvingly. He told me, as he chuckled, that when most Americans try to eat an orange in this manner, it gets all over their face, hands, and clothes. He was clearly hoping this would happen to me.
Now, nearly a year later, orange season is back! You can buy them on the street, pre-peeled. The vendor will cut back the top like this, so it’s ready to go:
I bought two today. The first one I ate while walking down the street, my Nica headscarf on, while simultaneously sucking down the juice and spitting out the seeds. I felt so Nica.
Here’s the second one:
As someone who has eaten oranges both large and small, both solid and in juice form, both sweet and deceptively sour, I can say, with complete conviction and without hesitation, that this, my friends, is how to eat an orange.