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Amanda's Garden Agenda

 Amanda's Garden 

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Oranges and a Mexican Man

Saturday, February 09, 2013

In the last post I was talking about Sequoias. We were on the same trip in California, except driving back to the coast from the mountains. We had to cross Death Valley again; it was boiling hot; the AC on the poor little Mazda kept us from actually boiling too, and we drove through a very bizarre landscape:

Flat dirt, grey and dusty, the Sierras on the horizon, also grey and dusty, and patches of GREEN AND ORANGE [they were such loud colors that I had to capitalize] that hurt to look at after all that peaceful dust. Well, were in orange country, which of course on the West Coast is gigantic, and makes the Florida groves look silly. There were miles of them, all carefully watered by drip hoses, the foliage deep, deep green of magnolia leaves. And the fruit was the perfect contrast, the deep, deep orange of…well… oranges, I suppose.

California orange grove with mountains in the background

We motored through and stared and talked about how marvelous the trees were; it was like seeing a pineapple plant with the pineapple on top, not just buying a pineapple in the grocery.

Oh, but it was hot.

Suddenly we passed a small ramshackle fruit stand. Were they selling oranges? Was it worth it to turn around in that broiler of land to find out?

It was.

It was a tiny wooden building [let’s glorify it by calling it a building] with a tiny little Mexican man and a whole lot of oranges. There was a lady in front of us, a fancy person with expensive shoes, buying big, juicy oranges. She bought a lot and it came to 6 or 7 dollars. It’s hard to read the face of someone who’s been in the sun all his life, but I thought the man was not impressed with her expensive shoes.

So we are next, and I start to pick up some of the gigantic gorgeous oranges, and he slaps my hand. It wasn’t just a tap either, so I looked up and he said ‘no.’ then he pointed to some little, greeny-orange speckly oranges and said ‘better’. I like brevity in a person.

We picked up some of the littler oranges, and he said ‘no’ again, so I looked up and waited for advice. No need to get slapped twice!

He gave us a mesh bag [I think it was 3 or 5 pounds] of the orphan little oranges and held up two fingers like a peace sign. This can’t be right? Two bucks? I gave him the money and we left in the car.

Fruit tree branch loaded with beautiful ripe oranges.

Now, we were going to eat these oranges if I had to gnaw through the mesh, which I didn’t, since I carry a pocketknife everywhere, but the skins wouldn’t come free without juice exploding all over the car. What to do? We decided to try and eat them with the skins on.

The skins were sweet, soft, and pretty much melted, and if we swallowed while we chewed we got most of the juicy innards. We didn’t have any napkins, so we wiped our hands on our pants and our sticky mouths on our sleeves. It was a fabulous mess. We made yummy noises.

We ate all but 6 or those oranges on the way back to the coast. They were ambrosia; they were sublime; they are on the list of the 5 best things I’ve ever eaten.

We got back to the cottages on the cliffs, and we looked so disreputable and sticky that the owner backed away from us; we had orange pith, juice, and pulp in our hair, ears, hands, and all over our clothes.

I’ve eaten sunshine in the desert, and the only problem is, I’ll have to go back to Death Valley to have more oranges. The ones in the stores are just plain nasty.

Amanda Bennett

photos, Mountains: Rawich Liwlucksaneeyanawin www.123rf.com/profile_liewluck, Oranges: Erdin Hasdemir www.123rf.com/profile_ehasdemir

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