Monday, January 18, 2010

Grapefruit Update

Thoughts on the Grapefruit Resolution:

On Saturday I started with a plain, raw grapefruit to get a feel for the flavor.  I was surprised to find it much less bitter than I remember it back in the days when it was a dieting-obligation food.  I chose a nice red fruit from Texas and got a net bag full of them.

Today (Sunday) I added sugar to the raw grapefruit and found a curious thing.  Adding sweetener actually enhanced the bitter aftertaste of the fruit!  It was as if the first intense simple sweetness of the sugar intensified the contrast with the more complex bitterness of the grapefruit.  I'd be willing to bet that the reason I disliked it as a teen/YA is that I had loaded it up with sweetener (and artificial sweetener to boot), and as the bitterness intensified I added more to compensate.  After a while it was just saccharine with a bitter aftershock.  Of course I hated it!

We put the ice cream maker in the freezer overnight in prep for the Grapefruit sorbet, which for budget reasons I'll make with Squirt soda instead of Champagne and sugar as the base.  I'm also playing with the idea of whether a grapefruit substitution in a key lime pie recipe would turn out well or not.   

In an ironic twist, my psychotic swamp cat (Mad Sweeny) who rejects all human food from bacon to tuna....loves grapefruit. I let him have a little taste from the empty halves to convince him he didn't like it, and he was ready to fight me for the rest (and yes, I checked first to make sure grapefruit isn't toxic to felines; it can upset their stomachs in large quantities but he only got a few licks in).

The idea of taste is an interesting one.  It's my understanding that people are often "inclined" towards one of the tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour...and the East Asian umami/savory) based on the genetic coding of the taste receptors on your tongue.  Personally I'm very sensitive to bitterness and sourness.  I hate walnuts, even masked in desserts.  I can really taste the bitterness in white grapefruit, marmalade, or iceberg lettuce. I cannot stand the taste of fresh tomatoes, because to me they are bitter and sour at the same time (like something rotting).

What this leads back to is an idea that Gretchin Rubin of the Happiness Project puts forward:  "although you can choose what you do, you can’t choose what you like to do."   

I'm lucky enough to be able to choose what I eat, but I have little ability to change what I actually like.  I could force myself to eat fish, venison or mushrooms in a starvation situation. But if it's not something I like and I have the capability to choose...why eat fish?  Or tomatoes?  Or green peppers?  I don't think I have that kind of time to waste in my life.  I also don't like the current movement that treats food as medication.  If you're eating something you hate simply for the beta-carotene, you might be better off with a pill.  It's easier to swallow.  What I'm after isn't medicine, it's a variety of tastes and the pleasure of experimentation. 


Jamie Longstreth Fritz said...

I love grapefruit, even though I also tortured myself with a grapefruit diet back in the day. I put it down to an incurable love of citrus.

hoppy okapi said...

Definitely give the key-lime pie substitution a try - I made grapefruit curd a few years ago based on a lemon curd recipe, and it was quite good, so i bet the pie would be too. If your grapefruit are very fragrant, also add some grated zest to the filling to enhance the flavor!

julie said...

I no longer try to get myself to eat things that I dislike, though I don't expect to love all that I eat anymore either. Getting your carotenes in pill form looks like a bad idea, from the studies I've seen. Lots of nutritional supplements are not turning out to be the good thing they have been reputed to be, and can possibly be dangerous, such as beta-carotene for smokers. In my opinion, if you can't get it from food, just live without it, unless you've got some medical condition where something is actually shown to help.

Anonymous said...

OMG I had a similar experience with grapefuits a few years ago after a childhood of hating them! I wrote about it on my blog here.

you could also try eating grapefruit with salt. Ive heard the salt enhances the sweetness--the opposite of sugar. ive never done so, as I find I like the taste of plain, ripe grapefruit.

Rachel from Fat Sisters

Gretchen said...

Seconding the salt. I mentioned your grapefruit project to my mom (who loves grapefruit) and she said that growing up she ate it with salt. So I tried it, and she's right - you can't really taste the salt if you have just a little, but it improves the taste a lot.