March 17, 2012


Once upon a time, I lived in Valencia, Spain.  It was way back when; when I was younger, when I was dumber, and yes, when my boobs were perkier.  Now, some twenty years later, I find myself here in Spain again.  Yet this time I'm far removed from the beach, the Fallas, and those savory Valencian oranges.  I'm in Andalucia:  land of the gypsies, the whitewashed pueblos, and...oranges?

I'm sure you've heard of the famed Valencia orange.  Spraying a mist so sweet upon peeling back that first strip of rind that you'd swear you were inhaling flowers.  I used to wait for my local grocery store to post the sign, Valencia Oranges $1.99/lb!, snubbing the California and Florida varieties because afterall, everything is better in Spain, right?  What I didn't know, but do now was that I was being tricked.  Maybe not 100% of the time, but well, yeah, a good portion of it.  Turns out those sneaky Valencians were plagiarizing their produce.  Okay, fine.  I've got the wrong word - I know you can't really plagiarize an orange but it's all I could come up with before my third cup of coffee has kicked in.  Let me explain...

I'm writing this post from the front porch of our house.  As I look out the window, past the goat path and beyond the neighbor's chicken coop, I see miles and miles kilometers and kilometers of nothing but orange groves.  Palma del Rio is the closest big town to us, some twenty minutes away.  The drive to Palma from our pueblo is carpeted by row upon row of orange groves.  As far as your eye can see it's nothing but orange trees.  It reminds me a little bit of Iowa if you were to trade the cornfields for orange groves.

Squeezing and bottling three liters
of liquid gold:  20 minutes
Now that you've got that visual planted, understand that there are two kinds from which to choose:  table oranges (for eating) and juice oranges.  And between these two kinds of oranges you've got hundreds of varieties (flavors).  Sample a Palma Orange as we refer to ALL the oranges in this area, and you're taste buds will explode.  I've never known anyone to be able to eat just one either. The juice is so sweet that your lips pucker and your eyeballs about come shooting straight out of your head.  Once you shake off that first bite your mouth is already twitching for the second.  It's heaven, pure heaven.

Tasting that first glass of real, fresh (and free)
orange juice with no sugars & no preservatives:
And here's the Debbie Downer piece of the post.  Our orange growers here in the region, instead of sacking up and selling directly to the Big Boys abroad, thus marketing Andalucia and The Palma Orange and puting us on the map, have taken the low road and pimped it to our Valencian brothers whose, I'm sorry to say, oranges are by far inferior.  The Valencians drive down here with their big ass semi trucks, load up OUR oranges for pennies on the dollar  centimos on the Euro, and truck them back to Valencia where they are reborn as the Valencia orange and resold at a higher price.  Do they still sell their oranges?  You bet.  So when push comes to shove you actually have a 50/50 shot at tasting a Palma orange when you buy Valencian.  A true crap shoot if there ever was one. 

The whole thing makes me sad for us.  We're like a bad Pollack joke down here in Andalucia.  How do we get our local government and orange growers to see the forest through the trees?  So while you chew on that one for me, I'm gonna head out to the back yard and pick some more off the trees to squeeze and bottle for tomorrow's breakfast.

Tropicana still has nothing on us here in Spain.

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