I've never been to Seville but I buy a little piece of it at the grocery store. I'm talking oranges. A large mesh bag of them. On the side of the packaging is a recipe, in small print, for orange marmalade. I then go to the baking aisle and buy sugar for jam making and load up on two bags. I should say that I had no intention of buying Seville oranges on entering the store but instead had pasta on my mind and parmesan cheese and boring things like toilet paper and bleach.
I suppose I bought the oranges in memory of my mother. She was a great one for marmalade. Spent days preparing and marinating the orange peel. It became something of an art for her. We all coveted the end product. Pleaded with her to make more. It was always doled out carefully, a thin spread of the fruit enough to sate our longing. If greed was demonstrated the pot would become quickly depletedn and I would find myself treading back to her kitchen to hint at the possibility of obtaining a fresh refill.
Making marmalade is no little feat. In fact, as I found out it is something to be proud of, quite a triumph if done properly. First the fruit has to be squeezed of its juice and the pith and pips salvaged to make up the necessary pectin. All of that has to be put into a makeshift muslin bag. Then the orange peel has to be quartered and cut into slivers. I found this process to take me about two hours. Once the peel is ready it is added to water and the orange juice. The muslin bag of pith and pips is suspended into the pot. It is simmered for two more hours. Then the bag is removed and allowed to cool and it is then the sugar is added and simmered for at least an hour. During this time the bag of pectin is squeezed into the pot and all is allowed to congeal and gather momentum.
It might be boring reading this but the one thing I thought about is that I never realised my mother went through such a process to produce the marmalade I craved. Until now that is. I mean I always took it for granted and here I am with a shelf full of marmalade to eat. Fruit perfectly set. Brown toasted homemade bread with melted butter and black coffee and the marmalade pot on the breakfast kitchen table.
Everyone loves the marmalade. The boys don't recall my mother's marmalade but maybe subconsciouly they do. Maybe they too sense the love and sunshine and attention to the detail that I saw in that marmalade all those years ago. It is here again. It shines on the table and gives a tang to the day, a strange mix of sweetness and bitterness and love and memory that I endeavour to keep alive. Maybe if I am lucky there will come a day when someone will make marmalade and remember me. Oh and one other thing. The joy of making marmalade is that the entire orange counts. Nothing is discarded. All is of value.