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Sweet family memories from love of grapefruit

"That was an amazing grapefruit!" my 13 year old daughter said after lunch on Saturday. And she was right.

I am so pleased to have a child who loves grapefruit. It took me three tries. My oldest daughter will eat it, my son won't touch it and my husband absolutely isn't interested.

Not only does my youngest daughter love grapefruit, she eats it in the family-approved way. That is, using a regular teaspoon to gently and perfectly separate and lift out each segment of a grapefruit sliced in half around the equator. When finished, you must squeeze any juice you might have missed into the bowl that has been holding your grapefruit steady.

My father taught me this method as I sat next to him at breakfast everyday for the first 26 years of my life. It was a matter of family pride that you didn't need one of those specially-made grapefruit spoons with the serrated edge. Even the thought of separating the segment from its membrane with a knife was taboo!

For him, though, it was more than a macho method of eating grapefruit. Having lived through the Depression, it remained important to him for the rest of his life never to waste anything, especially food. This method simply was the best way to eat all the grapefruit. Besides, self-described as "Scotch" with remote ancestors hailing from Scotland, he wouldn't dream of spending money on an unnecessary utensil.

Towards the end of my mother's life, my father would peel grapefruit for her and give her the sections to eat with the membrane still on. This worked well for her, but I prefer the tender texture of the membrane-free method.

Recently I had a phone conversation with a friend about eating grapefruit. We were discussing our methods. I presented my rigid rules; she seemed to find discovering a variety of techniques exciting, including cutting them into wedges as you would an orange. Imagine that!

Another of my father's taboos was putting sugar on your grapefruit. Forbidden! Were you a wimp? Enjoy the ruggedness of the taste! And I do. There is no sugar on grapefruit at my house.

The other day my 13-year-old told me she had written a poem about grapefruit for English class, news to warm this mother's heart. Even more heartwarming, her teacher had stopped to discuss it with her, asking if she used sugar (she expressed horror) and if she squeezed it when finished to get the last bit of juice. Surely a venerable teacher!

My daughter has loved grapefruit since she was 3 years old, amazing adults who might chance to be here when she was eating one. Not having required any time to develop a taste for them, this raises the question -- is the love of grapefruit nature or nurture? Did she get the grapefruit gene and my other two children didn't?

Although I'm proud of her grapefruit-eating prowess, my daughter still struggles to extract and eat her segments as quickly as I do. I tell her it takes time to develop this skill. She remembers when I would remove the segments for her and put them on her divided ABC plate. She tells me she thought it was cruel when I told her she was old enough to do it herself. But she has learned well. Her grandpa would be proud of her. He passed away a few years ago, but I never eat a grapefruit without thinking of him.

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