In eighth grade, I wanted to be Shelley Hack.

Specifically, the girl she portrayed in Revlon’s Charlie perfume ads: Leggy, confident, fashionable — everything my awkward, eighth-grade self was not.

Imagine my excitement, then, when I got a bottle of Charlie for Christmas. I doused myself with it every day, imagining that I, too, was running through the streets of New York in a très fashionable pantsuit and chunky boots.

People were noticing me, I thought!

And they were. Only not for my Charlie-fueled chicness.

“I smelled you coming down the hall,” laughed my youth group leader (who could pass for a brunette Shelley Hack). “You must love that Charlie!”

Yep. For months, people could smell me coming. They could probably taste me if they stood nearby. My parents, bless their hearts, never said anything, but I’m sure they breathed a sigh of relief (and clear air) when the Charlie was gone.

Perfume, it turns out, is best in small doses.

orange waterSo is orange blossom water.

The first time I used this Middle Eastern distillation of orange blossoms, I nearly gagged. My recipe called for sprinkling a teaspoon on some fruit salad. It tasted like straight perfume — or what I imagine perfume would taste like if I spritzed it in my mouth.

I tossed the salad.

But I was intrigued. The water smelled just like the orange blossoms that perfume Florida’s winter air. Could its bite be tamed?

Yes. But only in small doses.

Today, I make an orange blossom syrup that’s 2 to 3 tablespoons syrup and 1/8 teaspoon orange blossom water. I like to drizzle it on platters of sliced oranges and mangoes, then sprinkle it with mint. It’s sweet, floral and a little exotic.

Like Shelley Hack.

In her Charlie.

mango1

Orange Blossom-Dressed Mango Salad

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/8 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 4 mangoes
  • 4 navel oranges
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh mint

In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and water. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until the water comes to a boil and the sugar dissolves.

Remove from the heat and stir in the orange blossom water. Cool completely.

Peel the mangoes and slice them in thin ribbons.

Remove the peel and white pith from the oranges and slice them into disks.

Layer the mangoes and oranges on a pretty plate. Drizzle the cooled orange blossom syrup over them. Sprinkle everything with mint.

This serves four to five très fashionable people (with or without perfume).

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