Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Year I Became A Sun Seeker

Junior year abroad.
An exceptionnel year abroad.
Dark skies, wind, rain.
Wet shoes and cold fingers.
Une année exceptionnelle.
Citrus. A coping mechanism.

When I was studying abroad in Montpellier, France, I often spent my evenings after dinner lying in bed paging through my copy of Let's Go Europe. After long days of being immersed in French at the université, it was comforting to curl up with my big book of travel. The fact that it was in English was a real bonus. Although I knew that I did not realistically have the time or budget for an entire tour of Europe, I went through each country methodically, planning itineraries, picking hotels and restaurants and prioritizing sights to see. I had a lot of ground to cover, planning future vacations gallivanting around the continent. I made notes in the margins and flagged cities that looked especially enticing. When I made it to the Portugal chapter, I got out the highlighters. Let's Go described Portugal's beaches as a sun seeker's dream come true. I don't think I had ever thought of myself as a sun seeker before I read that chapter (or anyone for that matter - it's not really a trait of most Minnesotans), but as soon as I had highlighted that sentence, I knew it was a good fit.

That year abroad was particularly hard because although I had set my heart on sunny skies and afternoons at the beach, it started raining on October 1st and didn't stop for a good six months. I was so sick of hearing about how exceptionnel that year was and how normally Montpellier is so pleasant in the winter.

Since my needs weren't being met in Montpellier and I couldn't afford to get myself to Portugal, I comforted myself with small lemon tarts that I picked up at the pâtisserie on the way home from school. A small treat full of a burst of the sun. I needed it. That winter was cold and wet, and I needed a daily infusion of the sun's energy.

Even though I now live in a place where it actually is sunny almost everyday, I still find myself longing for a daily dose of citrus this time of year. Lemon tarts, satsuma mojitos, candied grapefruit peel, a squeeze of lime in my sparkling water. I can't get enough. I know I'm not alone.

This is what I enjoyed last Saturday night. I couldn't find any satsumas, and I think I actually like this version better. It's less sweet and more subtle.

Grapefruit Mojito
basically the same as this recipe

1 large ruby red grapefruit (preferably organic)
1 lime, halved
4 sprigs fresh mint
1/2 cup light rum
3 Tablespoons simple syrup
4 oz club soda, chilled

Wash the rind of the grapefruit with a scrubber, dry and set aside.

Squeeze the juice of the lime into a large shaker. Add 2 sprigs fresh mint.

Peel a quarter of the grapefruit with a knife. Chop the peel into small pieces and add to the shaker. Cut and remove four segments of the grapefruit and set aside. Quarter the rest of the grapefruit and squeeze the juice into the shaker. After squeezing out the juice, remove the fruit and add to the shaker, discarding the peel.

Muddle gently. Add rum, simple syrup and ice. Shake vigorously.

Prepare two glasses. Add ice and one segment of grapefruit to each glass. Strain drink from shaker into glasses. Garnish with mint sprigs and a segment of grapefruit. Top with 2 ounces of club soda in each glass. Serve with a stirring stick.


  1. It is so amazing to know you lived in France! A young far away from home. You are indeed a brave little firework! You did deserve sun. Your smile beams and I really can't picture you in a gloomy place for so long! Cheers to the rays of orb which warms our hearts!!! The drink does look usual!!! Hahahaha

  2. lucky you in europe when you were so young. and for so long! too bad the weather did not cooperate -- at all!

    i am crazy for grapefruit. sometimes i have it for breakfast. it is DIVINE.

    long ago was on vacation in mexico. i was staying with a friend's family. they rented a villa and the villa came with a cook that prepared the majority of our meals. my hands-down favorite thing made was a grapefruit salad. a perfectly peeled grapefruit (NO EASY FEAT!) for each of us, with some kind of light dressing. so simple SO DIVINE. it was UNBELIEVABLY good, and i can't even explain why. i have tried to replicate it, but haven't been able to. so i just eat plain grapefruit, and that is good enough!


Hey, thank you!

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