Zen and the Art of Orange Peeling Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Zen and the Art of Orange Peeling

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A man handling an orange in a very zen way

The orange is a sweet and healthy citrus fruit clad in an amber peel shell, containing juicy, vitamin-rich flesh. The shell has a rough surface and has a rubbery feel to it. The shell tastes foul as it is very bitter, so it is best removed before consuming the rest of the orange.

To peel oranges correctly, manually and without making a mess while providing optimum appreciation of the sweetness contained within, some dexterity and finesse is required, along with 15 minutes of undisturbed time. Plus, it is a pursuit as potentially spiritually rewarding as it is enjoyable - perfect for the attainment of Satori.

Preparing the Orange for Consumption

Oranges need not be cooked or grilled, but some form of preparation can be quite beneficial to both taste and ease of peeling.

Take the orange between your hands and roll it around with a slight amount of pressure. This causes the skin to loosen a bit, but shouldn't be overdone. Overdoing this part of the process results in a squashed mess and juice all over one's lap.

Once the orange has been 'rolled' sufficiently, you can continue on to the next stage toward attaining sweetness and good health.

Removing the Shell

The removal of the shell or skin of this delicious fruit can be accomplished with or without tools - using one's fingernails is the most convenient and most common practice.

Hold the orange with your left hand, positioning it in such a way that the green pimple, where it once was connected to the tree it grew on, is facing upwards. Puncture the orange's skin near the top slightly making a centreward pinching gesture using the nail of one's index finger. Continue making such small incisions around the green bit until it is entirely detached.

Now try and remove the small round piece of skin with the green bit in the middle. The optimal way of doing so is to try and carefully drive the same nail used to 'cut' it in the first place between the fruit and the circular piece of skin. If all goes well, it should come off easily and take at least part of the white fibrous centre of the fruit with it.

Now carefully use the same technique on the rest of the skin until the fruit is naked and almost ready to eat. Experienced orange peelers might take pride in taking off the entire skin in one piece. Beginners should take care not to puncture the fragile inner membranes of the fruit, as juice will ooze out and make removal of the white leftovers of the skin extremely difficult and messy. These yellowish white fibres have a bitter taste to them and as such can be detrimental to one's goal of ultimate orange enjoyment.

Removing the Skin Leftovers or Minimising Bitterness

Now that the main skin is removed, one gains insight into the inner structure of the fruit at hand. It is divided into cells of a crescent shape when disconnected from each other - more about this later on.

Radiating from the hole on top, where the green bit used to be, are white fibres running in parallel with the parts dividing lines. Carefully scrape them loose using the aforementioned nail. Slowly peel them off and watch as the true 'orangeness' of the orange is revealed. Be very careful when doing this, for if juice is released, the white fibrous stuff will go gooey and sticky and will be very hard to remove afterwards.

Once the larger fibres have been exhausted, you can go two ways in removing the rest of the bitter white stuff; either you use the same nail-scraping technique on the loose ends of the white roughage, or you gently rub the almost naked fruit, causing the white pith to come off. The former technique requires the orange's 'underwear' to have loose ends.

These techniques could and should be combined. Continue using them until all the yellowy pith is gone and no more of the white stuff can be removed without breaking the skin of the juice-containing cells. It is best that plenty of time and care is taken over this; it is like a little puzzle or game. Once all possible pith has been removed without breaking the inner membranes it is time to progress to the next stage.

Breaking up the Orange

As most of the yellow-white stuff has been removed, it is time to break up the fruit into manageable parts for consumption. Place both one's thumbs on the hole on the top of the fruit, where the green spot used to be. Now the fruit is slowly and carefully torn apart by pulling the thumbs outward.

Juice leakage is inevitable at this stage, but should be minimised by slow and deliberate tearing. The fruit should come apart easily, but the base deserves special attention. Quite similar to the top part, this is where the white fibres come together and are connected. Use this opportunity to remove some more of them by carefully tearing the base part off in parallel with the inner skin.

Put aside one half of the now divided fruit or give it to someone else. Now, using much the same technique as for dividing it, loosen one of the cells. This should create additional loose white fibres, which can be removed for maximum sweetness.

Eating the Orange

Holding half the orange in your left hand, bring the part prepared for consumption towards your face using the right hand. Sink your teeth in the thin part of the wedge first. Now when your teeth almost meet, pull the part to be eaten away. If there were seeds hidden inside the part, they are now in your mouth.

Do not chew the seeds - they taste foul. Instead spit them out, preferably in fertile soil, and have high hopes of growing your own orange tree. Now that the segment is pipless, put it in your mouth and chew it. Savour its deliciousness while preparing the next part of the fruit.

You can skip the 'thin-end-bite' on parts that do not contain seeds. The skin of the cells is translucent, so hold them up to a light source to check for the tell-tale shadows of seeds - do not use the sun for this, as it can damage the eyes. If there are none, eat it; if there are, remove them using the aforementioned method. Repeat the process until the entire orange is devoured.

Wrapping it up

Since juice spillage is inevitable during the process described above, a visit to the nearest sink or tap might be a good idea. Clean up the peelings and white fibres carefully and dispose of them in a proper manner1.

Grab a match or a toothpick and pick your teeth in the same way you peeled the orange: carefully yet thoroughly. Because of the fibrous nature of the fruit, picking your teeth afterwards can be a very rewarding experience in terms of one's oral hygiene.

Never eat oranges when in a hurry; if you do not have time to properly peel it and pick your teeth afterwards, you'd be better off grabbing a glass of orange juice.

Due to the partitioned nature of the fruit, it is perfect for sharing with friends, lovers or children. Just be sure that you do not peel and prepare it in front of the impatient, as they will be infuriated by having to watch the methodology just described.

Enjoy your oranges!

1Either by composting or by placing in local authority green waste collection

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