Whenever I peel an orange, I think of my father's brother, my father's 'ede', my Uncle Paul Bilezikian. Uncle Paul taught me the rare skill of how to peel an orange and he taught me why. We children always loved to watch Uncle Paul pulling his trusty jack knife out of his pocket (which he often used to strip the rubber coating off of electric wiring, an action that also fascinated us -- I still know how to do it!). Flipping open his jackknife to a special blade, he patiently and perfectly removed the peel from the orange. Starting at the top of the orange, he would peel carefully, around and around, in almost concentric circles, until he had achieved a perfect bouncing spiral orange peel -- a gift for one of us children. The lucky child (be it one of my cousins or one of my siblings, or if it was a wonderful day, me) would bounce the orange spiral for as long as it would remain in one piece.
My father told us that in Marash, on the rare occasion that the family would have an orange to share, Uncle Paul would create the same spiral of orange peel, and his mother (Grandma Epros Kurtgusian Bilezikian) would lovingly present each child with one dilim (section) of the orange. Grandma Epros would then hang the peel in the attic to dry (where the resident snake apparently protected the peel -- more on the family snake later). When finally dried, the orange peel would be placed into the fire and would fill the small house with the most wonderful of aromas.
When I shared this story with my Albanian friend at WBUR's fundraising this morning, her eyes went alight with recognition: we did that too, she said!