The Great Grapefruit Kerfuffle, although you could spell it carfuffle or curfuffle.

Years ago, when bush camps were quite isolated, I was part of a small crew doing some field work. One day after our supply flight, I walked into the kitchen and laying on the table was a bowl of fruit: apples, oranges and, bless her, the cook had ordered a few grapefruits. That was something you seldom, if ever, saw in the bush camp way back when.

She said I could help myself, so I took a grapefruit, sat down at the table and began to peel it the same way I would peel an orange. One of the company’s hotshot PhD geologists whom I had had a few discussions with already, came in. He gave me a horrified look and demanded, “What do you think you are doing?”

I was a little put off by his attitude. Although truth be told I was more amused than offended. So, I just gave him that facial and hand expression of puzzlement which meant “What are you on about?” In a very superior tone, he said, “That’s not how a person eats a grapefruit.”

I consider myself a person, not an uncouth barbarian, as he implied. So, I asked politely, “And just how is a person supposed to eat a grapefruit?”

He proceeded to tell me that the proper way to eat it was to cut it in half, then cut the sections loose with a grapefruit knife and then eat it with a spoon. From his tone, he implied this was the only proper way to eat it and everyone should know this and follow his protocol.

After he was done, I smiled and replied, “That sounds like a lot of work. Do you do the same thing with oranges, lemons, and limes?”

I was tempted to take a bite of it like an apple, rind, and all, but I did that once as a kid and don’t recommend it. But I did pop a section of the fruit into my mouth. He stormed out of the kitchen. In part because a couple people were snickering and it probably dawned on him that he couldn’t really explain why one wouldn’t be allowed, under the rules of etiquette, to eat a grapefruit any way they wanted to. He had just never thought of peeling one before.

One thing that did surprise me was that a couple of the crew didn’t eat or like grapefruits at all. Yes, they can be a little tart sometimes, but they are loaded with good things and help fend off scurvy. At least I heard that as a kid. Parents warned kids that scurvy was a thing to be avoided. That was one reason to eat fruits and vegetables.

Personally, I reckon if it’s food and edible, just as long as you get it into you, that’s what matters. For the next couple of days, the crew debated the finer points of eating grapefruits, but most agreed that there was more than one way to do it.

It really is quite remarkable that so many people take exception to what others may eat or how they may choose to eat it. I knew a field geologist who would open a can of pork and beans and eat it cold right from the can with a spoon. He said he liked them that way and found they tasted better cold rather than hot. Yet some people thought he was a little odd, uncouth, or low class because he did this. Luckily if you work in the bush you are allowed to be a little uncouth and being a little odd can be an advantage.

So as a kerfuffle, this one was mild, but the fellow who started it held a grudge that I had somehow mocked or made fun of him, so we never really got along, before or after this incident. It is an example though of how people carry their food prejudices around with them. They are often rooted in their upbringing and what they experienced as a kid.

It’s simple: if you like it, eat it; but if you don’t, then don’t. Believe me, if you get hungry enough, people will eat just about anything and really enjoy it.

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