The Portuguese oranges of Louis XIV

As laranjas Portuguesas de Luis XIV, Rui Barreiros Duarte, ink on paper, 2012.

“Portugal,” “Portugal,” cried the street vendors in 17th century Paris. They were selling a novelty fruit: sweet oranges from Portugal. European oranges were bitter, good only to make marmalade.  That all changed when the Portuguese brought sweet-orange trees from India and China. These trees produced the most fashionable fruit in Europe. Portuguese oranges were so expensive, that Moliére used them in his play The Miser to signify extravagance. Louis XIV, who thought that sweet oranges looked like the sun, adopted them as his personal symbol and did not rest until he had his own “orangerie.”

If you visit Portugal, order a freshly squeezed orange juice in an outdoors café in an old neighborhood. Imagine yourself in the 17th century. Enjoy this luxurious drink that only kings and nobles can afford. Doesn’t it taste sweet?

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