ORANGE YOU GLAD THERE'S CRUMB CAKE
The Captain seated behind the Trader Joe's Customer Help desk assures me that both Peppermint Jo-Jos and Candy Cane Crunch Chocolate Bars are strictly seasonal items. Any hopes of dunking chocolate cookies sandwiched with peppermint cream into a cold glass of milk have been dashed. Like most shoppers steering their cart between dairy and produce, I am inevitably drawn to an expansive wall unit in the rear of the store, an area that pre-pandemic, was generously outfitted with coffee urns and small cups so you could caffeinate and shop simultaneously. Those were the glory days. Over time, the wall became a haven for seasonal/feature items. Currently, the area is awash in orange. It seems that each time I peruse this display, the oranges are assembled in a slightly new formation, a marketing ploy created as a subliminal pull of my coat sleeve, encouraging me to buy another bag. These purchases have caused some disgruntlement at my house; namely between other members of the citrus family fighting for elbow room in an already congested refrigerator. Clementines, Satsumas, Blood Oranges, Tangelos, Valencias and Cara Caras leave little room for lemons and limes, let alone Ruby Red grapefruits. Sure, I could leave them sprawling all willy-nilly across the countertops, but I have my hands full just wrangling the mesh bags into a semblance of order. Crafty, I'm not, so repurposing them into kitchen scrubbies or gift wrap is highly unlikely.
Freshly squeezed orange juice is a small luxury that my grandmother swore by. I don't remember oranges confined to mesh bags, more clearly I recall my mother pausing by a mountain of oranges at the A & P and hand picking each one, placing them in a large brown paper bag What I vividly remember is the daily wake up call of the Sunbeam juicer, a steady whirr-pause-whirr as the machine reliably separated pulp from juice, always wanting a second glass because it was so delicious. It took a little digging but it appears that in the early 1960s, oranges sold for 89 cents/dozen.
As a family dedicated to breakfast sweets, our allegiance was to Jessie's cinnamon swirled sugar buns. Crumb cake was something I enjoyed at a friend's house (hugely popular after slumber parties) but made infrequent appearances alongside my father's Chemex coffee maker. Fortunately, my grandmother had a fondness for the occasional slice of Entenmann's crumb cake, and when she moved to Florida, she would pick one up at the Publix, placing the box on top of her refrigerator for safe keeping.
I'm a devout believer in a cake-to-crumb ratio hovering near 50%. Spiking the cake batter with zest and a little orange juice (that has been reduced to concentrate the flavor) plays nicely against the sour cream cake. And though some might protest, you can add a thin layer of fruit or jam or curd, (all in the name of flavor and freeing up fridge space). But most critically, what distinguishes crumb cake from ordinary coffee cake is the heft of the brown sugar crumb. Ask any New Yorker and they'll tell you
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Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm