26 April 2014


When I was eight my mum put sliced oranges in my lunch. This must have been the first and last time she had ever done that. When I tried to eat them, I was only able to suck out the juice, but wasn’t able to tear the flesh from the skin. What was left were pulpy and stringy stalagmites, rising up from the orange peel. It was embarrassing and I have never tried again.

But even if I had been able to successfully eat an orange, I still don't think these are for me. I have never been particularly fond of orange juice, and have especially always really hated the pulp variety. I can’t stand orange flavouring in things—least of all chocolate or desserts. For some reason I've always found a zest of orange peel somewhat nauseating. I don't even remember being particularly fond of the bit of orange that I did manage to tear free that one time when I was eight. Which reminds me—of course that one time in grade 3 was hardly the only time I've ever tried an orange. I have had oranges plenty of times in my life, but always cut up in some sort of fruit salad. I think my mum used to put it in with our fresh cut up grapefruits in the morning.

This brings up the most horrifying part of any orange: the pith. It's supposed to be good for you, but I'll be damned if it's not the most vile and bitter part of any fruit known to man. The only explanation for the existence of something so gross is that it's a defense mechanism against consumers. Listen to nature, you guys. This is the orange's way of telling us that we should not be eating it. Look, I get it. From a distance, oranges are beautiful: they are perfectly round and bright orange—why wouldn't we want to eat this delicious looking specimen? But when you finally manage to peel back the tough skin, rather than the revelation of a delicious fleshy-fruit to be eaten, what we get is all the reason we need to abandon this as a food.

It is a bit embarrassing to admit this as a former English student, but I don't really like Jeannette Winterson. I read The Passion and didn't like it even though everyone else does, but bravely I forged on and read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. The novel achieves title while the protagonist is in hospital, and her cruel evangelical mother doesn't visit her and only sends oranges upon oranges. Finally the protagonist tells her mother that "oranges are not the only fruit." We should imagine that she is also saying "this is not the only life" and that we should all canter off to the city and become lesbians. Or we could accept that she's really only talking about fruit and was correct in stating that oranges are not the only fruit, and with so many other options under the sun, why would we settle for this difficult and disgusting citrus abomination?

Somewhere between the pith and the pip
The orange fruit lies:
Brightly coloured; its flesh a-drip...
But the taste of the flesh does little to disguise
The ever-present,
The always-unpleasant,
The bitter reality of the pith and the pip.

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