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Editor’s Note: How to Peel an Orange

Editor Mateo Hoke discusses our latest issue dedicated to travel and adventure, and how those experiences can shape our view of the world
Executive Editor Mateo Hoke in Gaza

Repeat after me: An orange should be orange before you eat the orange.

Not white. Orange.

It may take more time, sure. But it all comes down to how you peel. I used to score oranges lengthwise five or six times, then peel back the skin, but this often proved to be a hatchet job. The peel would tear, and the pith would remain in mocking clumps. However, thanks to an old Palestinian man in Jericho, I learned a more efficient method.

His name was Shehadeh Dajani. He was in his early 80s at the time. We were sitting in his garden, some 900 feet below sea level. Jericho being the lowest city on Earth, it was capital-H Hot. The garden took up the large front yard of his property, where he and his wife grew citrus and olives and melons and such, the dusty West Bank road hardly visible through the dense foliage. We drank tea made with bergamot they’d grafted and ate salad made of vegetables grown mere inches from where we sat.

After lunch, Shehadeh asked me if I’d like for him to peel me an orange.

I’d never had another man offer to peel me an orange before. I am perfectly capable, I thought, but told him yes, please. Palestinians are arguably the most hospitable people in the world, so I took his gesture as that of a good host. Besides, he was 50 years my senior, so I was in no position to say no. And I’m glad I didn’t.

With weathered hands, he took his knife and scored a Jaffa orange around its circumference near each end, then scored the middle section along its longitude in one-inch sections. The circular tops popped off, then each little rectangle around the middle came off neat and clean. I’d never seen this done before. It was sorcery. And since that moment I have only peeled citrus in this way. Then I scrape them extra clean of any remaining pith, because again, an orange should be orange.

I was traveling in Palestine for work, not to learn kitchen tricks. But being there taught me this skill I’ll carry with me and will no doubt pass on to my son when he’s old enough to hold a knife. This is the blessing of travel: Jumping into the unknown gives us the opportunity to learn new things. Often, our destinations aren’t so much the place we’re going, but a fresh way of understanding the world.

In this issue, we’re extolling our love of travel and adventure. We’re getting behind the wheel, checking into luxury hotels, hitting a legendary local trail, putting our hands in the dirt, and dining at one of the most adventurous restaurants in SD, where scoring a reservation means a year-long wait.

And speaking of jumping in, on the cover—soaring like a bird—is local high school teacher Nia Hilton, who joined a stranger (me) on very short notice to jump from a plane when she should have been getting ready for her best friend’s bridal shower. Respect. When her bucket list beckoned, she answered the call. We hope this issue inspires you to head out and learn something new. So book your tickets, fill your tank, and pack your parachute. Maybe you’ll learn an even better way to peel an orange than I did.

By Mateo Hoke

Mateo Hoke is San Diego Magazine’s executive editor. His books include Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary, and Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation.

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