Winter is singing its swan song. Two days ago, we all said, “Spring is in the air.” Today, we are in the midst of our last snowstorm of the season. Despite its fearsome chill, it isn’t going to have the last word. We all know it. We felt it in our bones. You can’t take that kind of certainty lightly.
So outside, the sky is humorless and frigid and frosty and white-like. And the ochres of old Italy are doing their brave best to keep things warm and cheery until the next Season takes her rightful place.
I have never been a huge fan of yellow, but under the seasonal circumstances, I crave it. I want to see it. I want to touch it. I want to smell it and eat it. And my dreams have been fulfilled, this winter, by a fruit I have ignorantly avoided lo these many years. The cedro. you see it there, above this text: that giant, yellow thing (somewhat-like-Jimmy-Durante’s-nose) trying to look prettier than it is, next to its petite cousin, the lemon. Look, I’ve peeled a bit of it for you. Can smell that? That’s the sweet sour smell of yellow! The rallying call of sunshine. Take a deep breath of that color, and let winter go!
Now here’s the part that requires courage at first, then absolutely no courage at all. You know what it’s like to eat a lemon, yes? So you might think that eating the halfmoon slices from the inside of this behemoth would have you in contortions of acidity. But it doesn’t. You might think that munching on that white spongy bit snuggled between the pulp and the peel would be, in a word, unpleasant. But it isn’t. It’s the most peculiar pleasure I’ve known these past grey, icy months. And I’ve grown to crave it, as I said—no, to need it. Like the return of warmer light and longer days and shorter sleeves or no sleeves at all.
I clean the sunny sphere then peel it, sometimes leaving little bits here and there for extra bite. Then I quarter it lengthwise and cut away the center edge of each quarter, removing the seeds and the inner, white fibrous core all in one maneuver. Then I slice each quarter into thin little crescents, trying to balance the amount of pulp and the amount of white. A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt later, I’m deep in the middle of a Sicilian summer without leaving my Milanese kitchen. The taste, if the cedro is a good one, is startling. Lemony, yes, but without aggression. Gently, subversively lemony, with a sweetness that’s all the more touching, coming as it does from one who’s lived her life thus far in such a lumpy, unattractive package.
There are foods that make your heart sing, aren’t there? Mine belts out arias for the cedro.
NOTE: The window above is not mine. I just enjoyed it briefly last week in Piemonte. And the building is the one I see across the street every day. Bits and pieces that make up my world.