Whenever I eat citrus fruit, I feel like I’m eating part of the sun.
Today we take access to oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes and other citrus for granted. California’s oranges weren’t widely available until the mid-late 1800s when the Transcontinental Railroad enabled cross-country shipping. The advent of the automobile and national highway system enabled shippers to cost-effectively deliver fruit from California, Texas and Florida. Of course, citrus is now available from around the world thanks to the modern wonder of global transportation.
In my mind, the journey of a hefty ruby red grapefruit or cara cara orange begins with the sun. Light from a distant star travels across the eons to shine on our planet and generate the fundamental energy needed for growth. Whether I’m drinking fresh-squeezed orange juice or eating a slice of key lime pie, the pleasure of that tart taste began with the sun.
I love how nature provides its own containers. The rind of an orange or watermelon, the skin of a grape, the peel of an apple, all hold goodness within. From the atomic level to cells to complex beings like you and me, nature is really a series of containers big and small.
Peeling apart a tangerine or slicing open a plump lime reveals brightly-colored, pulpy and juicy fruit. It’s nature’s gift in a way.
Jonathan Justus of Justus Drugstore celebrated his 50th birthday last week in Smithville with his wife Camille Ecklof, family and friends. I was lucky enough to be one of many people that attended a blow-out night that included bountiful cocktails, beer, a roasted pig and side dishes and a special private performance by Bobby Bare, Jr. and his band.
Jonathan and Camille arranged to have a party bus shuttle between Tannin Wine Bar and the gallery/event space in Smithville every house during the event. I met some fun people like Zach Ott and Matt Scanlon from Seattle Fish Co. and spent time with Jennifer Maloney, Mike Foust, Jenny Vergara, Paul Andrews and others. Oy, it ended up being a late night that spilled into the wee hours of the morning.
I met Jonathan and Camille back in 1998 or ’99 when I began working at Le Fou Frog. Camille worked front of the house. Jonathan and I were just cutting our teeth as cooks. We had plenty to learn under Chef Mano Rafael. It’s been a treat to watch Jonathan progress from preparing cheese plates and working the line to working with other chefs around town and later opening an acclaimed restaurant in Smithville with Camille.
I’m proud of Jonathan and Camille’s accomplishments but, more importantly, honored to think of them as friends. I don’t spend enough time with them. Life keeps us all occupied. It was great to share in this special birthday celebration and build on a friendship born out of a common love for food, wine, community and connection to a sense of place.
Here’s to many more celebrations in the years ahead.
A sign of spring – garlic chives about to blossom.
Breakfast plate at Succotash.
A cake and a smile to start the morning at Succotash.
2601 Holmes St, Kansas City, MO 64108
Chef Terry Mille opened his retail bakery Cowtown Cheesecake in Bonner Springs, Kansas in early 2014.