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Foodie Gifts

My friend P is just back from three months in Bali. Lucky her: while the Northeastern US was slogging through one of the snowiest, messiest winters I can remember (it was, wasn’t it? I mean, it’s not just me?), P was chillin in sunshine, adjusting her sarong and taking Indonesian lessons. OK, she was working, too, but still. It’s much more satisfying for me to picture her on a beach, kicking back and being indolent.

That Turtle Tart I wrote about the other day was dessert for dinner at P’s. She was cooking for me and T, another friend of ours—which we enjoyed so much we’ve decided to make it a monthly occurrence, next time at my place. I hadn’t seen her since her return, and as soon as I got my coat off she went running into another room, announcing that she had a gift for me. She emerged, grinning, with three small bottles in her outstretched palm. The large one was easy to decipher: Vanilla essence (extract?). The smaller ones, though, were slightly trickier. No, Ananas is not banana extract, P explained. It’s pineapple. I slapped my forehead—of course I knew that; my creaky French failed me again. And Jeruk? Orange, P told me. A quick google on that word informed me that it’s an Indonesian catch-all for “citrus”—it could be anything from pomelo to lemon to several unique-to-Indonesia fruits. I opened it when I got home that night, eager to see if I could sniff out its true nature. Smelled like orange, all right. I put a quick dab on my fingertip, as if it were a bottle of perfume, and licked. It tasted like citrus. No specific variety, just that slightly sour, bright flavor that is a hallmark of the genus. And then…the tingle began. Limited to the very tip of my tongue, exactly where the little drop of essence hit. Perhaps it’s made from pomelo after all?

Suggestions for using both the pineapple and the jeruk essences are welcome, everyone!

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