Candied orange peel

How many times has the initial bite- or even the first faint smell- of a certain food immediately launched you right back to a different time or place? For me it happens all the time.

Yesterday it was candied orange peel. We grilled breasts of duck and were finishing a sauce that included orange rind. One of my classmates had the brilliant idea to candy some of the leftover orange peel to add some needed flair to our green salad. Without a thought I popped a small piece in my mouth.

And I’m no longer in a bustling commercial kitchen in Boulder. It’s early December and I have all the time in the world. I’m sitting in a quiet Alabama kitchen, chatting with my Maman about everything Christmas, and eating a piece of her candied orange peel. We’re probably watching the birds and squirrels on her deck, or we might be planning and scheming about what to “fix” for dinner. I reach for a second piece. And I don’t even love the orange peel. I like it. I like the flavor and color, in small doses. But more, I like the familiar feeling I get when I eat it. Every December. For the past thirty years at least.

It usually lives in a particular cookie tin- a round light green metal one with tiny intricate multi-colored designs all over the outside. For the past few winters it has made its way, carefully tucked in plastic wrap, into boxes of cookies and fudge and other homemade candies that have arrived on my doorstep. And I’m pretty sure my Maman knows the orange peels would lose in a battle to chocolate any day of the week. But I think she also knows I need that little mouthful of her kitchen now and then.

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