Thursday, February 09, 2006
The lemons that ate my paycheck.
Yesterday, when I was shopping for food at Wild Oats, I saw these lemons--a golden yellow, weighty, heavy in the hand, which means, usually, more juice per lemon. Then I looked at the sign. Say what? Meyer lemons? The lemons of lore and fable?
I've been reading about Meyer lemons ever since I bought the exceedingly twee Chez Panisse Cookbook lo these many years ago--the one that first told me how to make a pain au levain, the bread recipe where you catch your own yeast from the vibration of fairy wings crossed with the mistral, and the bread takes a week from yeast making to loaf. But I digress. It also had a recipe for a Meyer lemon cake, which waxed poetic about the sublime nature of the Meyer. Here's what a Meyer lemon is, according to foodreference.com:
"The Meyer Lemon (Citrus meyeri) is thought to be a cross between a lemon and an orange. They are thought to have originated in China about 400 years ago. The Meyer Lemon was introduced to the U.S. from China by Frank Meyer in 1908. Meyer lemons look like a large orange, with a very soft edible skin. They are sweet, juicy and fragrant, and are excellent in vinaigrettes and sauces, or sliced skin and all in salads. Meyer Lemons were mainly grown as ornamentals, but they are appearing more frequently in food markets."
Skin and all! I declare. I had never, ever seen one in a store where I shopped. Well, I figured I better buy me some and decide what to do with them later--maybe make the cake as an homage to Alice Waters. So I picked eight of them and put them in a bag. They were $3.99 a pound, but I didn't weigh them, because they're lemons! Lemons are light, usually. I don't usually weigh lemons.
So I got up to the cashier. She rang up the lemons as if they were ordinary, mere mortal, organic lemons at 2 for a dollar. I corrected her: "Those are Meyer lemons, I think they're a little more," I said, knowledgeably, pedantically, all full of snooty Chez Panisse esoteric produce names.
Serves me right. Those are $24 lemons, lovely as they are, in the picture. $24! My God.
Should I have put them back? Should I have cried out a California French expletive in protest at the absurdity (l'absurdite?) of these trop cher citrons?
As you can see, I caught my breath and bought them. There will be a Meyer lemon cake or a really amazing lemon pie in the offing, mark my words. Either that, or I will slice them thinly, skin and all, for a hella expensive salad.