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Grapefruit

Whenever I buy some I know I'll never have to share it, such is the missus's lack of enthusiasm for its tart charms.

The contents of the carton - acid you can drink; a caustic vichyssoise that could waken the dead - are mine, all mine.

I'm talking about grapefruit, a king among the commoners of the citrus fruit monarchy. Orange is a vulgar everyman, few varieties of which are worth consuming unless thrashed to a pulp and ameliorated with the addition of neat alcohol. Likewise the lemon is a brute, possessing neither subtlety nor style, its ubiquity in kitchens and pubs - cut up into pathetic half-moons before shrivelling to the point of futility - born of necessity rather than desire. Significantly up the ladder from these two sits the lime, whose pugnacity of flavour is matched by its culinary versatility. I might take a bullet for a bag of limes, but I wouldn't thole a scratch for an orange or a lemon.

Tangerines, clementines, mandarins and satsumas? For my money the effort-to-reward ratio, as with that of cucumbers, is so disproportionate as to make their consumption by anyone other than fashion models and those on a weight-loss diet pointless.

The grapefruit, though, has a controlled fury of flavour that could smite you or sanctify you, cuddle you or kill you, depending on which side of the bed it got out of. It intrigues. It energises. It revitalises.

Ernest Hemingway thought so too. It was in Cuba, where the flight from Prohibition led the writer in 1932, that the Hemingway daiquiri was born - white rum, ruby grapefruit juice, lime juice and maraschino liqueur, all mixed and thickened in the freezer.

Heaven help the barman who dared adulterate Papa's drink with sugar; the sting of grapefruit was pivotal, and to sweeten the concoction would be to render it undrinkable. Try it on a dreich winter's night - it's cheaper than a flight to Havana.

Based on apocrypha such as this and purely personal experience, I suspect the grapefruit appeals more to men than women (which is maybe partly down to its proven power to prolong life). Though I have few vivid memories of childhood, I do recall my father being treated to half a grapefruit, meticulously cut into segments still in situ and sprinkled with sugar, on weekend mornings. I doubt his dentist was impressed but it clearly made an impression on me.

Right, I'm off out to track down a grapefruit spoon and knife. One of each. Some things in life are not for sharing.

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