Americans have a tumultuous relationship with food and drink. From 19th century vegetarians who advocated abstinence to contemporary fitness gurus who urge dieters to pour salt over uneaten desserts, we haven’t figured out how to guiltlessly enjoy the prodigious bounty to which we have access.
Counterintuitively, entrepreneurship has closely followed. A market niche defined by controlling desire is still a market niche, after all. Grape juice was invented in Vineland, NJ in the mid 19th C as an non-alcoholic alternative to wine, for those who espoused teetotaling and healthy living. Quite a remarkable achievement, since grape juice, left undisturbed, wants to turn all that sugar content into alcohol. The inventor, one Thomas Bramwell Welch, founded a company that you may have heard of. By the 1930s, vegetables were going through the same processing with the invention of the electric juicer. V-8, Jack Lalanne–both hawked juices as the key to bodily vigor.
Given the decadence of the past few (holi)days, I, not one who often falls for such trappings, felt a visceral need to ingest something healthy. And not just healthy, but aggressively so. Something that would cause others to look at me and think, enviously, “I’d like to be so aggressively healthy, too.”
I turned to Four Seasons Juice Bar.
Round the corner from Kamal’s Middle Eastern Market, which also makes juice, Four Seasons is a literal cornucopia. This place is bananas, and apples, and celery, and wheatgrass, growing in containers and ready to be added to your drink for an extra charge.
It can be overwhelming and disappointing. There’s a list of suggested juice combinations, sure, but how can any self-respecting food lover deny the impulse to experiment? On today’s foray, I ignored the delicious concoctions ordered by the people ahead of me, one a viscous green that seemed to indicate kiwi as a main ingredient, and the other a berry mix that, standard as it probably was, looked delicious. Nope, for me the combo ended up being carrots (sweet and healthful), ginger (good for digestion after all the desserts of the last few days) and parsley (just to see what that would be like). While we waited for the extraction to begin–and I have to pause here to note how odd it seems that there are entire “restaurant” chains where nothing is ever cooked–I glanced at the nutrition posters hanging above. Could we have added sweet potato or was that just for informational purposes? Murky, as was our drink, a frothy coral confection.
We sipped. Cool, refreshing nutrients slipping down our gullets feeding both our bodies and our self righteousness. Until we ended up at the deli ordering a potato knish. This, of course, is the other thing that Americans are experts at–falling from grace with the hallejuah! possibility of future redemption.
Recommended: experimentation and smugness! but maybe not parsley with carrot and ginger juice.