On Our Preference for Sweetie Clementines over Cuties

05Jan08

In which The Gay Recluse writes in highly attenuated metaphors (but with uncharacteristic optimism) about the Democratic election results in Iowa.

In the past month, we were given the opportunity to engage in a high-stakes “taste-off” between upstart Sweetie® Clementines from Mulholland Citrus and longstanding front-runner Cuties® California Clementines from Sun Pacific. As we all know, both Clementine brands have their advocates — we were inundated with mail arguing the various points of contention — but we ignored the marketing hype (and in some cases, threats) and were ultimately swayed by one consideration only: which brand offers the most refreshing and delightful Clementine “experience”? Our answer, after careful consideration of the factors listed below, is that the reign of Cuties has indeed ended and the Sweetie is the superior Clementine.

The Peel: Both brands tout their respective peeling qualities, with Cuties emphasizing a “zipper skin” and Sweetie an “easy-peel rind.” Although we in fact found the Cuties easier to peel, there was a saggy and withered quality to the skin that was slightly off-putting in this context; while the Sweetie does not “fall” out of the rind with nearly as much ease, in no instance did we find the peel “sticking” to the fruit in a problematic manner; rather, like a nicely fitted article of clothing, it showcased the body without making it seem exaggerated or uncomfortable.

Seeds: Sun Pacific promises that Cuties contain a “minimal seed content, to be sure it satisfies the grade requirements so that it can be packed under the Cuties® brand.” Does this seem like a bit of a hedge to you? If so, you’ll understand how we felt on countless occasions upon biting into a segment only to find — following the expected citrus burst — the disappointing crunch of a seed (or worse, more than one)! Mulholland Citrus somewhat more modestly claims that “Sweetie Clementines have very few if any seeds,” and we have yet to find one!

Sweetness: In the same way an opera singer must always be judged above all else on the quality of the voice, the same holds true of the Clementine. Ultimately, what do we care about a saggy skin and a few extra seeds if — as the Cuties literature claims — “[e]ach piece of fruit goes through a rigorous inspection to ensure a good eating quality”? But the truth was, too many of the Cuties were barely sweet at all, so that they could only be considered average eating quality, hardly the “delicious seedless gems” we had been promised! As for the Sweetie, each one was so delightfully sweet and juicy that in a burst of nostalgic remembrance we were immediately taken back to Paris, where we used to enjoy an after-class snack of Petit-Beurres and Spanish Clementines. In what could be considered an audacious claim under other circumstances, Mulholland Citrus states that “Sweetie Clementine’s sweet zesty flavor and fragrance make it impossible to eat just one.” Yet you no longer have reason to doubt: the Sweetie strove for greatness and — at least for now — has achieved it.

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