Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Giada and The Case of The Contraband Oranges

Glowing Giada
I confess that sometimes while cooking I imagine myself a winsome celebrity chef like Giada De Laurentiis. Skillfully I prepare Capellini Piedmontese while impressed onlookers take notes and smile appreciatively. My charismatic alter-ego vanishes, however, as I rummage ungracefully through drawers for the right whisk, peeler or pastry brush to put to task. So it seems that until I invest in a few stylish kitchen gadgets or some new Rachel Ray Cookware, the celebrity chef gig is kind of on hold.

Last month I was preparing Savory & Sweet Spiced Walnuts to give as Christmas gifts. The recipe called for orange zest and my blessed husband made a special trip to the store for the two navel oranges I required. I don’t own one of those slick zesting tools, but I managed well enough with my all-purpose grater. When I was through assaulting them, the oranges looked, well, sort of forlorn (I will hereafter refer to them as for-lor-anges) but I slipped them each into a plastic baggy for later snacking.

While packing a cooler the next day for a family trip to California, I grabbed those disfigured forloranges thinking one of us might enjoy them on the road. Just past the Oregon-California border on Highway 97 is a sometimes-mandatory Agricultural Checkpoint that is notorious to my children. It was here that a full, two-pound, clamshell box of juicy Costco cherries was surrendered last summer. The kids have not yet extended grace to the officers who took those cherries and in fact, they are convinced that the officers confiscate fruit randomly, according to their own personal cravings.

CA state line
So this time, as our car approached the official in the khaki uniform, three voices from the backseat pleaded “No! Don’t tell them we have fruit! They’ll take it!” My husband politely greeted the female officer who, of course, asked if we were carrying any fruit with us. Hubby turned to me for the answer. “Bananas, apples and, um, oranges,” said I, seizing the opportunity to model honesty isn’t always convenient for the children.

“May I see the oranges?” asked the officer. From the cooler I hesitantly produced one of those pitiful forloranges in its plastic sandwich bag. She looked as surprised as if I’d handed her a dirty diaper but she inspected it dutifully.

Awkward silence. I said, “I zested it.”

“Hmm. Well, there’s still a little bit of skin on it,” she said as she pointed to the orange splotches left by my not-nearly-as-professional-as-Giada zesting technique. “We’re concerned about oranges; but without the skin, well, I don’t know...” For what seemed like a long minute she appeared dumbfounded but never dropped her professional demeanor. “Does the other one look like this?” she finally asked.

Upon learning that it did, the befuddled produce officer, with the apparently unprecedented case before her, decided we could keep them but with the following mandate: “Be sure to eat them soon”. As if that settled the matter. I persuaded my son to eat one right away, but the other forlorange flew under the radar all the way to Central California and I still feel some guilt about that.

I’m not sure there's a moral to this story, but I know this: I'd like a new zester. And if you too could use some newer kitchen gadgetry, be sure to stop back on Thursday when I will announce a FABULOUS GIVE-AWAY! You won’t want to miss it! Oh, one more thing: always eat your cherries before you get to the Ag stop! They take their work very seriously there.

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