So I didn’t know I was a simpleton cavewoman until I came to Japan. In this post, I explore why I am not graceful in the way of preparing citrus fruits. Not at all. Cue orange juice stains and dribble of juice running from my hands to my elbows. I’m sorry, daughter. You should learn this special grace, this citrus art form from someone else. You’d think, coming from Florida, land of the orange, life-long dweller in the Sunshine State, that I would know how to prepare citrus. No, not even close, not when compared to my graceful friends & family, Japanese people. If they (yes, an entire people group) are the queen, dining on sectioned oranges with a drizzle of orange blossom honey, I am a dirty, dusty shoe-cleaner, scavenging for the good parts of an orange. If they are creating a grapefruit dish to accompany a fish, it will be a painting—a study in ceviche, where each quadrant of tangy grapefruit is marvellously peeled of any prior skin, each bead of pulp unrifled, as if a golden feather of juicy light. (And that little grapefruit could even be a mere 4% of the dish; no corners would be cut. It would be treated as royalty). If I were matching that, on, say, The Iron Chef, my grapefruit dish would appear mashed, “squozen” (my awesome word. SO good). My grapefruit dish would look like it had been torn apart with my bare hands, or by a wolf. That poor fruit would sit lumped on a plate, even running onto the tablecloth. Such is the difference in citrus-cooth & know-how. I just made a very different kind of charoset for Passover. In this dish, I was to neatly cut up peeled, sectioned orange. It took EVERYTHING I HAD not to deviate & throw each slice in with the skin.It was messy, but I tend to think citrus is forgiving. You know what else is forgiving? The part of the recipe that called for me glugging in some fabulous Cointreau. “Hey, it will be fine”, I told myself. And yet, I think back to how my wonderful chef of a father-in-law (who is Japanese, duh), has prepared oranges or grapefruit before. There are not enough Pinterest pins to explain the gorgeosity. Whether in de-skinned rivulets of citrus perfection, dazzling in a salad, or even as a mere snack, peels half-removed, sliced for the diner’s ease, there is no contest. I know nothing about how to eat citrus. Have you seen kids here eat a mikan (kind of like a Clementine, I tell my US friends & family)? Everyone here knows not to make that whole messy nest of individual peels. Rather, they peel back the skin in fourths, taking out the orb & then using that empty, connected peel as a garbage can for any seeds or stringy segments. Sunshine State: you did not betray me. I do not blame you. I take up a full heart of pride as I see your Florida grapefruit signs on my subway trains. I pretend I have always been eloquent in the ways of citrus. And if my exotically orange charoset, with its full-on flavor of oranges, slug of gorgeous Cointreau, crystallised ginger, and almonds is not dainty enough, well then. Just enjoy the splashes of liquor. Nearly everything comes out in the wash. An Epicurious list of charoset recipes from around the globe.