How to Peel an Orange (or Grapefruit) Lickity Split

oranges navel mary

When I was nine years old, my grandmother took her daughter, Rachelle, my cousin, Carol, and me on an airplane trip to Arizona to visit relatives. It was my first plane ride. We flew from Boston to Phoenix on TWA, “Traveling With Angels” I would tell everyone with a proud grin on my face. The flight was memorable for many reasons; chief among them were the perfectly coiffed  stewardesses who told us we could write all the letters we wanted, and they would send them for us via “Air Mail.”  That struck me as nothing short of amazing. They lavished us with decks of cards, airplane pins, books, and meals so noteworthy, my cousin and I both wrote to my mother to tell her what was served for lunch: steak, carrots, peppers, onions, rice with gravy, a salad with French dressing, a choice of milk or Coke, and a piece of apple pie.

TWA navel orange

What do I remember about Phoenix? Navel Mary. “Navel Mary” is the name we girls gave to our Great Aunt Louise’s next-door neighbor. Naval Mary had a grove of navel orange trees in her backyard. We visited every day. She taught us how to cut oranges, lickety-split. She probably could cut five of them in under a minute. Obviously, it made a big impression on me because here I am, fifty years later, writing about it. To this day, when my cousins and I talk about that trip, one of us will say, “Remember Navel Mary?”

How to cut an orange the Naval Mary, way:
oranges navel mary oranges navel mary  oranges navel mary oranges navel mary  oranges navel mary

Works for grapefruits, too!

oranges navel mary oranges navel maryoranges navel mary oranges navel mary

And, for other citrus fruits!

DSC_0236 Version 3

Related Story:
Grapefruit and Greens: A Refreshing Winter Salad

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20 thoughts on “How to Peel an Orange (or Grapefruit) Lickity Split

  1. great memory….remember we “cracked up” every time we said her name..(behind her back)..silly girls, having fun in the 60’s !!!

    1. Carol, I remember it well! Interesting to think you could leave such a lasting impression on a bunch of kids. I still have my TWA boarding envelope filled with souvenirs and letters home from the trip.

  2. Just had to tell you that I used this method to cut up a grapefruit this morning for house guests and it worked like a charm!!! Fast and pretty also! How have I lived in the kitchen so long and not known this method. Love it! Thanks, Judy!

  3. This method is GREAT! Minimizes the amount of bitter skin on the grapefruit (and I swear, the amount of grapefruit Ive eaten this winter is the main reason Ive evaded colds/the flu). Markham and I thought you would want to know that we have been reading your blog & appreciating your tips. Next up: that delicious red velvet cake

    1. Cati, this is great news. I’m glad the Navel Mary way is helping you to eat more citrus fruits. Cati, I’ve been eating mixed greens with feta, a sliced grapefruit, and vinaigrette almost everyday for lunch. When the juices mix with the vinaigrette the the whole thing tastes so much better. There’s something about grapefruit that’s addictive! I hope our boy Markham will make you a RED velvet cake for Valentine’s Day! Post a picture if he does. xoJudy

  4. Thanks Cudy- you should add the scoring picture with the knife to the oranges for visual people like me- nice story sis… I remember you being chosen for the trip… I’m still mad ok

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