20080306-scale.jpgIf Lisbon was the culinary equivalent of permanent press chinos, Seville is more like a pair of Zegna slacks, comfortable, exciting, and a little bit mysterious.

I loved everything about Seville: the people, the incredible Moorish architecture, the sense of slightly decaying history lying around every corner, the narrow six-foot-wide streets that one particularly friendly local told us were nature's form of air-conditioning in Seville, the nonstop energy, and, of course, the food.

The only thing I didn't like was the cab driver who ripped off me and my son, Will, because he didn't have to give us the proper change from the €50 bill I gave him (admittedly it was a short ride and subsequently a low fare). The cabbie and I had a bit of a shouting match in the middle of a crowded street, but I have to tell you it's hard to have a shouting match with someone who doesn't understand a word you're saying (and vice versa, I might add). Hand gestures will only get you so far.

But I digress. This is, after all, supposed to be my Thursday diet post. So how did I watch my weight in Tapas Central, where a few slices of jamón ibérico literally awaited me at every corner? I discovered nature's--or at the very least Spain's--ultimate 100-calorie snack.

Nature's Snack Pack

Local southern Spanish oranges. I happened on this one produce shop as I was trying to walk off my cab driver altercation. The cab had in fact dropped off Will and me at what turned out to be a piss-pour excuse for a gourmet store in Seville. Seville's one shortcoming is its lack of good food retailers. (My wife, Vicky, was filling her soul up with culture at the incredible Seville cathedral, the largest cathedral in Europe--and that is saying something, as the Europeans know how to do big cathedrals.)

But walking back to our hotel we passed a small but elegantly laid out little produce market with a juice bar in front. In the back of the store, various kinds of oranges were piled in bins. I grabbed half a dozen under the watchful eye of the proprietor and paid for them with what little change the cabbie had given me.

I don't even know what kind of oranges they were. They were shaped like big tangerines. What struck us first was how fragrant the oranges were even without peeling them. They smelled like the orange blossoms that filled the air everywhere we went in Seville. Orange blossoms, serious eaters, are a beautiful, beautiful, thing.
I would do anything to smell orange blossoms in Manhattan, but somehow I don't think that's going to happen.

But when we did peel these oranges, we could only stare in amazement at the gorgeous deep reddish-orange color of the glistening sections. Even before tasting these oranges I knew we were about to experience something magical and special.

The first section I bit into released even more celestial orange scent into the air. These oranges had a complex and deeply satisfying flavor and texture and were earthy, sweet, spicy, and juicy as hell.

Way better than any 100-calorie snack pack I had ever eaten before.

The Weigh-In

So, dear serious eaters, it took a trip to Seville to wean me off bags of 100-calorie snack packs. I'm sure I won't be able to go cold turkey, but I haven't eaten one since I've been back. Many of you have commented since my diet started that fruits in general are the smart snack choice when you're "living," not dieting. My question is: Can I find fruit in New York at winter's end that will be as satisfying as those Sevillan oranges. I'm going to have to, since I am a ways from my weight goal.

Now to the scale to see if the Sevillan oranges offset my Iberian pork intake. Yes, I did not gain a pound on my vacation. I didn't lose any weight, either, but all things considered, I regard staying the same as a triumph. Long live Sevillan oranges, the greatest 100-calorie snack packs in the world.

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