An ode to grapefruit:
‘Sass in a Glass’ is pathetic
Commentary by Betty Bell
I imagine that Spot just bounded through
his dog-door carrying this paper that the paperboy, chauffeured by his father in
their Hummer, placed in his slavering mouth, and that you’ve already folded it
back to this column, for which I thank you. I have disheartening news to share.
A newspaper piece, "Can Grapefruit Be Hip?
Growers Plan Makeover" informs us that the grapefruit industry is in dire
straits, but the problem is being compounded by a tragically misguided response.
The growers marketing goal, for which they’ve pooled $3 million, is "to
transform grapefruit juice from the dutiful tonic of old people into the
must-have drink for chic, health-conscious young women." Not even a mention of
the heart of the grapefruit, only its juice. What a misguided plan—entering the
Super Bowl against OJ as a 103 point underdog. The bookies will rake in CEO-size
booty when we long-shot lovers bet the bank on ruby red.
A slogan that has smitten the growers is
"Sass in a Glass". Pathetic. And they’ve hired a "celebrity bartender" who came
up with the showstopper—a combination of ruby-red grapefruit juice and Bombay
Sapphire gin, and the plan is to huckster it "at hipster gatherings like the
Telluride Film Festival in Colorado and Fashion Week in New York City … We are
trying to reach the kind of people who create trends, not necessarily people
that follow them," said their spokeswoman. Note that a woman spoke—ladies always
get the hard-sell jobs.
The best hope for grapefruit revival is
for the growers’ marketing program to incorporate true-life stories similar to
mine—I’ve delighted in the edible softball for years, though I didn’t inherit
specific genes for that. I had my grapefruit revelation during Ice Age One when
first I was with child. Pregnancy is the acknowledged time for drastic changes
in food preferences and probably explains why men, generally speaking, are such
life-long non-evolutionary eaters.
I vividly remember the first time I stood
in front of a bin of grapefruit when it became suddenly and startling clear that
grapefruit was the one food I needed, the one food I craved. At that moment all
grapefruit looked alike to me, but gradually I earned a near Ph.D. in grapefruit
selection, preparation and civilized enjoyment. I now stand before a hodge-podge
bin of grapefruit as a connoisseur. Sometimes, instead of a bin, there’s a
painstakingly constructed pyramid, and that gives me a pang—I must either
destroy a work of art or settle for a lesser grapefruit, and that I’d never do.
At the bin, I’m quickly drawn to either
the top or the bottom half, and then I’m drawn to either one side or the other
of the top or the bottom half. Once I focus on a quarter of the bin I see the
grapefruit plain, and I begin my search for a smooth-skinned specimen. A halved
smooth-skinned grapefruit reveals an aesthetically thin perimeter of white
pulp—rough skinned grapefruit reveal pulp up to an eighth of an inch thick. Ugh.
The next test is for heft. A juicy
grapefruit is weighty. Do beware of a feather in the hand.
When the time comes to prepare your
grapefruit, take as much care as you did in its selection. Never, never, never
desecrate it by severing the spokes from the wall in one destructive circle with
your knife. Good restaurants make it a hard and fast rule not to commit this
sin, but the rest wholly ignore nature’s sections and slash away any which way,
and you don’t have to accept such a desecration.
At the table, first eat your eggs or
granola or whatever—anticipate the best to come. The grapefruit is eaten last
not only to prolong the pleasure, but an emptied early-morning stomach doesn’t
take kindly to citrus intrusion. My stomach lurches to even think about such
I hardly need to tell you to never put
sugar on your grapefruit. If eating it plain causes a tendency to pucker, add a
sprinkling of salt. However you eat it, it should be an unhurried process
interspersed with sips of excellent coffee. And when you’ve finished, what lies
before you should be an intact and beautiful wheel of spokes usually numbering
nine or 11 with the occasional 10 or 12. In grapefruit today there were 14
sections all crowded together like a litter of labs and the runty ones called
for extra skill and patience with my knife.
After I eat my grapefruit I take care to
place each seed to rest among the spokes, my one idiosyncrasy, and one you
needn’t adopt. The important thing is to savor your grapefruit, the whole
grapefruit. I’m convinced that if the industry is to regain a meaningful market
share, it must gain fidelity one graceful table at a time. At your table, may
every splendid grapefruit be savored—and, for mercy sake, don’t put anything but
an olive in your Bombay Sapphire gin.