A lot to go on about citrus

So far, 2013 has been the year of the head cold, the year of the stomach bug that took us down one by one (whoa), the year of the 2002 Honda Accord in sudden need of a new transmission, and the year of the grapefruit. You’ll understand if we focus on the grapefruit today.

I never get excited for winter citrus the way I do for summer berries or fall plums, which is odd, because once the oranges, and grapefruits, and lemons are here, I can’t get enough. When I was a little girl, my great-grandmother Edith would send us HoneyBells from Florida each year. Did you know they’re part grapefruit? And the other part tangerine. They’d come in a box with faux warnings on the outside about the extreme juiciness within, and tie-on plastic bibs, like lobster bibs, for emphasis. There were many more HoneyBells among the grassy plastic padding than there were bibs. I assumed you were supposed to wipe down your bib between uses and wear it again, so I did. We ate them with ceremony on a newsprint-covered hardwood floor, bibs tied beneath our chins, one a day after school until they were gone.

Grapefruits were for cold weekend mornings, for halving and sectioning and topping with honey or heaped teaspoons of sugar, and eating on fold-up tables in front of the TV. I’d scrape and squeeze the skins clean, move to the floor by the heat vent, pull my knees up under my nightgown and, lips still burning from the pith, watch the rest of the show from there. I ate grapefruit just like that – minus the TV and nightgown, eventually – until late 2006, when my mother-in-law Sarah taught me how to supreme. I spent countless hours that winter sliding a sharp knife between membranes and plump, pink vesicles, transferring thrillingly intact slices to plates of arugula and avocado. Eli would joke sometimes that I didn't even like that salad, but made it just for the chance to supreme.

Well. That was a lot to go on about citrus when all I’m offering today is juice of. But when I started thinking about grapefruit, this is what came out. Bear with me, if you would; there’s vodka on the way.

The grapefruit juice currently in my fridge is from a guy called Uncle Matt. And by “a guy,” I mean a company, I guess. The point is that this Uncle Matt, whoever (whatever) he is, makes a very nice juice. We’re only 25 days into the new year, and I’m already on my third jug which – considering that I am the only grapefruit juice drinker in my household and that for a few fevered days I consumed nothing but Gatorade and the entire first season of Downton Abbey – is healthy evidence that this juice and I are ON. The first jug arrived in the final hours of 2012 with my friend, Julia. She’d been mixing up Greyhounds – vodka, grapefruit juice, and lime – and came equipped on New Year’s Eve to spread the good word. I didn't have one that night, or for many nights, sticking instead to a tamer grapefruit juice and soda while my head cleared and stomach quieted. That's what I'm drinking right now, in fact, a – what shall we call it? A "Virgin Greyhound?" A “Grapefruit Fizz?” A “Fizzy Pup?” I knew I was in trouble when the words “Dog Soda” flashed through my brain. In any case, I’m sold.

On the alcoholic version now, too. The Greyhound is clean, simple, sleek, not too sweet, all things that make me suck it down more quickly than I should. I've mentioned before what a lightweight I am, but honestly, I barely even deserve that title, when a single swallow of champagne hits me right between the eyes and two sips of wine are enough. And yet. The Greyhound goes down easy. He’s a quiet, gentle pup. I drank nearly a whole one earlier this week after Mia went to sleep and still made it from sofa to bed on my own. Then last night I emptied my glass! January's looking up. And not a moment too soon.

Eli's Greyhound

Don't let me stop you from squeezing and straining your own grapefruit juice for this drink. Just know that best-quality store-bought 100% juice is also very good here. Replace the vodka with soda for a virgin option.

1 ounce vodka (We're into CĂ®roc right now.)
2½ ounces grapefruit juice
Wedge of lime

Fill a glass almost to the top with ice cubes. I think a Collins glass is the traditional one for this drink, but we don't have any, so we use a rock glass. Add the vodka (or soda), then the grapefruit juice, squeeze in the lime, and stir well.

Makes one drink.


kasey said...

Yes! HoneyBells and grassy plastic! I loved those. Great post -- brought back some great memories.

Ian said...

My maiden comment on your blog! And it's about a cocktail. Make of that what you will, you'll probably be right.

But the comment is: I believe the gin greyhound much superior to the vodka greyhound (just like the gin martini vs the vodka martini). Substitute Junipero gin for the Ciroc and enjoy even more.

Jess said...

Kasey - Good stuff.

Ian - Hi there! Yes, I think gin is actually the more traditional choice in a Greyhound. I should have mentioned that. Eli doesn't like gin, which is why we've stuck to vodka, but I'm keen to try it. Junipero - noted.

Julia said...

i have been living for grapefruits this year! and no wonder honeybells are so good (part grapefruit). my grandpa always used to send us boxes of them from fl (complete with bibs too!) and since he's passed, my mom has taken on the task. we are still working our way through this year's supply.

Jacqui said...

I grew up eating grapefruit that was carefully, lovingly peeled and segmented by my mom. She'd start on one after dinner for herself, because everyone else said they didn't want one, but eventually, she was passing around segments and we kept asking for more. Sometimes we'd sprinkle the grapefruit with salt. I tried eating a half a grapefruit with a spoon a couple of times, but it was a disaster.

la domestique said...

This may sound silly, but I grew up on sonic cherry limeades and so I'm quite sure I would love this drink. :) Sorry you've been sick but I'm glad you're on the mend.

Jess said...

Julia - Love these family traditions. My grandmother sent all of the grandkids Fairytale Brownies each year, and after she died my grandfather and my dad and step-mom took on the task. So we now get TWO boxes every December. We freeze them all and work our way through them for months.

Jacqui - With salt, you say? Haven't tried that. Though apparently a Greyhound with a salted rim is called a Salty Dog. Maybe that's your drink! The key to spoon and grapefruit half success is thorough surgeon-like sectioning of each stinkin' triangle. Annoying at first, but strangely gratifying and totally worth it.

la domestique - Hold the phone. What, pray tell, is a sonic cherry limeade?? I know already that I want one.

Rosiecat said...

Ah, Jess, you are a woman after my own heart. I LOVE supreming citrus fruits; it's the best. I'm glad I'm not the only one who takes such pleasure in fruit preparation.

Also, I totally need a cocktail right now. Please and thank you.

Lisa said...

Oh man. They go down SO easy. I am also (despite what my IG feed might suggest to the contrary) a total lightweight, and boy, I slurp these puppies right down, and then I want another one. But I know I get very sad when I do. So I don't. But I yearn.

I'd never added lime before, but now it seems so clear -- can't wait. Tonight.

Bowen said...

Salty dogs! Those were my go-to bar order for a while - love the combination of the salt with the sweet and slightly bitter juice. YUM.

Hannah said...

There is a tiny cafe in Morro Bay CA called The Rock, and they sometimes have juice and one of the juices I've had there was called Granny's Greyhound or something like that - grapefruit with a little lime. And now I get it. Also, we are hosting a big brunch tomorrow and I am spending MY ENTIRE NIGHT supreming citrus. We get crazy here on Fridays. Also, Downton Abbey. I don't understand why I love it so much, but you must have a world of self discipline to have limited yourself to Season 1!! :) Glad you're feeling better. Happy citrus season to you.

Samantha said...

Another first time commmenter here!

Winter citrus can be more exciting than you think- what about meyer lemons? Also, it might be an interesting twist to juice the HoneyBells and make a new greyhound variety. Maybe call it a greyhoney?

racheleats said...

I'm always amazed at how sweet and soft grapefruit can be. I think this is because I still remember my grandpa Roddy shuddering and puckering and saying oh dear to a bowl of grapefruit segments when I was about 7. I am going grapefruit picking in Nemi just outside Rome quite soon. I could make this cocktail with my citrus bounty. Glad jan is looking up

nikki said...

If it weren't 8:30 in the morning and I weren't down with the flu, I would celebrate with a glass of this blushing citrus drink. One of the great pleasures during these cold winter days is a bright note of citrus, in every form. Glad you're on the up swing, January can be a bit temperamental...

Kim said...

I love your writing Jess and read every post though I've never commented. I'm not even a food blogger! I wonder if you could possibly recommend a good reference for writing a book proposal. My email address is kimmcnamara71@hotmail.com if you prefer to do it privately.
thanks so much!

Jess said...

Hello, hello, and thanks to all for your notes. I hate it when I get behind on individual replies and hope you know how much I appreciate hearing from every one of you.

Kim - Ahhh... a tricky question, indeed. There is a book called How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen. A friend recommended it to me, and I think it's worth a read - at least as a place to start. But. The trouble is, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all book proposal, so you have to take the recommendations in the book with a grain of salt.

I was (ridiculously!!) lucky to have an agent interested in working with me before I'd written my proposal, and she coached me through the process. I assumed she'd give me a few sample proposals, tell me the preferred format, what kinds of sections to include, and I'd model my proposal accordingly. Nope. She stressed that every proposal is different, and didn't even want me looking at a single other proposal! Honestly, it was a totally frustrating but ultimately totally gratifying experience that really helped me figure out where the book in my story was. I think ideally that's what the proposal writing is for - kind of a formal pre-writing. (In addition to getting your book into the hands of a publisher, of course. It's definitely for that, too.)

I'm pretty sure that most - all? - proposals include sample chapters in some form, information about the author, some kind of project overview and/or outline, and a few words about your target audiences and platform.

Hope that helps. Good luck to you!

Kim said...

Thank you so much Jess, that helps a ton!