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April 4, 2008

In the animated film Ratatouille, a bite of a classic veg dish has the power to transport a world-weary critic to a happy childhood. A sip of juice recently worked the same magic for me. Mind reeling, senses numb from the onslaught of noise and crowds at Natural Products Expo West—an extravaganza of food, personal care products, housewares, etc.—I was handed a paper cup of what the smiling booth attendant informed me was blood orange juice.

Its tartly sweet taste took me back to a sun-drenched café in Rome. My mother, brother, and I were seated around a table laden with food, my brother and I not yet crazed by our teens. Thousands of miles away from what was familiar, the three of us felt as at ease as in our own home. I started leisurely peeling an orange. The first glimpse at the flesh stunned me. It was red. I removed a section and tasted it. It was amazingly good.

That was the first time I’d tasted a blood orange. And here, now, more years later than I care to count, the fruit’s burst of tangy flavor tasted as wondrous as that first time. I felt the rush of joy I felt then, a little girl and a citizen of the world. Physics may question time travel, but physiology knows different.