Brightness and acidity

I wanted to let you in on a little change around here. I don't mean to imply that this is the only thing that's happened in the last several months in my life; but of course you're welcome to assume as much. I will say that the experience I'm about to relay is categorically different than what's happened over the last thirteen months: today, and yesterday, and the day before, I ate grapefruit. Since early January 2014, we've been unable to eat anything remotely sour. No vinegar, alcohol, yoghurt, wine, beer, lemons, limes, oranges, pineapple, grapefruit, tomato, olives, cheese, pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, you get the idea. Oddly enough, it's not the acidity that we couldn't tolerate, but the high levels of histamine and/or live bacteria in these foods.

Imagine fish without lemon; olive oil without vinegar; pasta without tomatoes; dinner without a drink; and avocados without lime. Imagine never marinating meat or making stock with wine, or dipping into a bowl of olives with a toothpick. There are worse things in this world, to be sure. Like not having enough food or clean water. It's actually impressive how much you can get used to if you just tell yourself, "This is what I eat; this is what I don't eat." This is what we eat: any kind of animal protein, offal, stock, or byproduct that hasn't been cured or processed; rice; salt; pepper; ghee; olive oil; coconut oil. This is what we don't eat: everything else.

A week or so ago — after making some changes to our diet based on recent tests — we bought a grapefruit. It was on this food list of the future; it's a hopeful list, filled with over 75 foods that we can't currently tolerate. We brought it home and I buried it in our crisper drawer along with the other forlorn vegetables, hoping that when I discovered it again I'd be able to give it a try.

I opened the fridge a few days ago and saw the grapefruit sitting neatly on a plate. It looked like someone had dug their nails into its thick hide, removed a chunk of peel and pulled out a piece of fruit. "Oh yea," Matt said, casually, "I tried some grapefruit." Feeling liberated, I wrestled my own segment out and carefully peeled back the white skin to expose those teardrops of fruit all packed together in their wedge shape, shimmering in the afternoon sunlight. I'll say it again: shimmering in the afternoon sunlight after the NY winter to end all winters.

I'd like to tell you I savored each little morsel of grapefruit, pulling it apart jewel by jewel and placing each one on the tip of my tongue. But I didn't. I ripped off a large chunk and stuffed it in my mouth. Brightness! Acidity! Sourness! A clean, astringent finish! I plopped the other half in my mouth, enjoying how it burned my lips and tickled my nose.

I thought of the time we visited our friend William in Memphis over New Years' after his parents had sent him a bag of grapefruits from their Florida tree. They were the wonderfully tart, thin-skinned kind from those smart trees that don't blow all their energy on thick, pithy peels. I periodically stole away to the kitchen, picking a battered grapefruit from the bottom drawer of the fridge and slicing through it with a knife. I'd make quick work of the flesh, then squeeze the two sides of the peel together to form a spout and tip the cold, fresh juice into my mouth.

As I ate bits of grapefruit, I smelled the wonderful, terrible Ruby Red Grapefruit juice we used to keep in the fridge as kids. I thought of the time when my old boyfriend, Brian, and I would sit by the window in his Cobble Hill apartment on a Sunday and eat grapefruit and whole fat cottage cheese with crushed black pepper. I thought of toasted almonds and burrata; of buttermilk scones with melted butter; of charring half a grapefruit over a griddle with sugar and mint.

I waited for the world to implode, for something bad to happen, for an allergic reaction. Nothing happened. I plopped another piece into my mouth, mashing it until the juice rushed out and the world rushed in.

 

Place: Manhattan

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