What is the best orange you ever ate? You don’t know? You’ve never thought about it? Well, do.
And while you are – here is my story.
On holiday in Andalucia in Southern Spain I had just woken from a brief but deeply satisfying siesta. The lady continued snoozing as I sauntered through the open door of our little balcony for the first time and stood in the generous late afternoon sun. Lighting a Ducados, I gazed across at the long, jagged silhouette of the Alpujarras mountains on the horizon. A very decent smoke was had.
Then, at the very moment that I realized I was thirsty, my eye was caught by an object in the foreground; there, sitting on a plate, more or less screaming, ‘eat me!’ was a huge orange. I guessed it had been plucked from one of the trees in the hotel gardens and placed there as a welcoming gift by the thoughtful hotelier. The peel fell away easily beneath my thumb and within moments the first segment had started an exhilarating taste bud party in my mouth. Oh, it was so juicy and sweet – it was the emperor of all my oranges and I shall not forget it….
I have similar stories relating to my best-ever cup of tea, my finest diet coke and my all-time top tomato. And so should you. The perfect storm of human, place and foodstuff is a rare event and should be embedded in the memory like a fat currant in a cupcake. I am still waiting for the unbeatable pistachio nut, the greatest of grapes and the sublimest ice cream – I know, however, that these perfect sensations, like most idylls, will probably never happen.
So I am delighted to report that I underwent a new fruity epiphany last week as I was rambling along the sumptuous Devonian cliffs between Dartmouth and Salcombe on a glorious, warm day…
Having walked ten miles or so I have begun to wilt beneath the hot sun. ‘Hmm…maybe my blood sugar is a bit low,’ I think, which is, if you are, like me, diabetic, a potentially dodgy situation. If sugar levels plummet too far you become confused and weak and you can, in extreme circumstances, fall into a coma. No problem for yours truly though; I plunge my hand into my rucksack to retrieve the large bottle of apple juice I have brought. Uh-oh, the drenched jumper sulking at the bottom of my bag announces my old mistake – I haven’t screwed the top of the bottle on properly. There is no apple juice.
I walk on into the burning sun but am feeling feebler and feebler. I either have low blood sugar or I am dehydrated, or both, and the nearest shop is at least a mile away….. Should I suck my jumper? I spot a house on the brow of a hill and totter off towards it, hoping to find a Samaritan with something liquid and saccharine, or really anything I can consume, but as I walk uphill the house seems to grow no closer. Maybe I need a lie-down…..
And then I see them; dotted among the green buds by the bushy path there are a few gleaming blackberries that have ripened early. I fall upon them and, as I guzzle greedily, I see more that are already in their prime – and then more. O goodness they are exquisite. After gobbling several handfuls I feel stronger and my body begins to return to its normal, (relatively) robust state – even if I am dribbling waterfalls of purple juice down my chin. Though I live another 1000 years I know that I shall never enjoy a blackberry as much as those sweet West Country beauties.
You don’t have to go to Gordon Ramsey restaurants to experience the most sensational tastes (though it does help to be diabetic).
Have you remembered a great orange? Or a Ryvita sans pareil, or a piece of cheese made in heaven? Do please write and tell me your favourite food moments. The winner will receive a sherbert fountain, which, if you are lucky, will be more brilliantly sherberty than any other sherbert there has ever been.