What’s That Fruit: Mandarinas

Tania sent me a neatly outlined grocery list. The night before, we drank red wine while salivating over her images of Mexican food. She was studying abroad in Medellín at the time, missing her country’s spicy foods only two weeks into the semester. What started out as a few Google searches evolved into a full celebration of Mexican culture, right in our apartment’s living room in Calasanz. She jotted down recipes, played salsa music, and taught me how to spin across the carpeted floor without looking like a complete fool.

I fell asleep with my bra still on (never comfortable) and woke up with a headache. What got me through my early morning classes was our master plan for the following evening: pitchers full of claricot. 

Clariot is like Mexican sangria. It’s a sweet, fruity red wine cocktail. Tania was clear about what we needed: two bottles of red wine, strawberries, apples, oranges, and grape juice. I didn’t think twice when I stuffed my bag with mandarinas at the market. They were orange-ish, right? Although I hadn’t realized it, I hadn’t bought an actual orange in the grocery store in months.

“These aren’t oranges, but they’ll be fine, I guess,” said Tania, fumbling the green peel in her hand. Mandarin oranges are much smaller and higher in sugar than naval oranges. In the States, I’ve known them as clementines, a required component of appetizer salads at my grandmother’s house: pale lettuce dressed with clementine slices and slivered almonds. But unlike the orange-peeled clementines sold in the U.S., mandarinas colombianas are a tye-dye of orange and green on the outside, even when they’re fully ripe. We cut the claricot with fresh-squeezed mandarinas and grape juice., mixed it in two large pitchers, and sipped it through straws.

I now have plans to teach in central Mexico in January. This country switch is no coincidence. (Tania is persuasive, to say the least.) And I anticipate making claricot on a few chilly winter nights, as long as I can get my hands on some citrus.

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