Monday, November 24, 2003

Orange Marmalade

I love orange marmalade on wheat toast. Why? I guess perhaps the odor and flavor of it reminds me of my childhood, growing up in Southern California back in the 1950s. Back then oranges were still being grown there, and in all directions from my childhood home on Tamarisk Avenue, there were still alive orange groves. They were close by, close enough so it was a just short walk even for a young child. And back then, unlike nowadays, parents did not need to be so concerned about where their children were playing. So often I would run off to play in the orange groves. And even to this day playing in the orange groves is still a vivid memory for me, probably the most vivid thing I can remember from so long ago. Even by that time, most of the orange groves were no longer then being worked for the fruit, but somehow the trees were watered enough to keep them alive. The groves were often overgrown with thick grass, and the trees were no longer being pruned, becoming unkempt and wild and intertwined with one another. And in the grass, like some sort of archeological relics poking up from the sandy soil, were the many concrete irrigation pipe works. Almost all the orchards were surrounded by giant eucalyptus trees, which acted as wind breaks against the strong winds we sometimes had in Southern California. Thus, the orange groves became for us children like a strange world of its own, a forest full of mysteries to be discovered. In the spring, when the trees would blossom, they gave off a sweet and unforgettable fragrance that filled the air everywhere you went. When I smell orange marmalade, it reminds me of that sweet fragrance.

Now, the orange groves have long since disappeared from most of Southern California, plowed under to make way for more housing subdivisions. Because of the increasingly high cost of watering the groves, it became more profitable for the land owners to stop harvesting oranges and to sell off their orchards. The trees would no longer be watered, and they would die. The bulldozers would come, and one by one, they would scrape the skeleton trees off the land into big piles, which were either burned or trucked to the dump, as I recall. And so the fragrance of orange blossoms that once filled the air is just a memory now from long ago. The orchards were already long gone by the time, ten years ago now, when I moved to North Idaho, an area where oranges would never be able to grow because of the colder climate. But I can still put orange marmalade on my toast. I guess the oranges used to make it might have come from Florida or maybe somewhere in South America.