Or, so I thought. Then, a few nights ago, I was watching a DVD documentary in which this ordinary guy pulls up to an outdoor produce market and buys some tomatoes, celery, carrots and an onion. So far, nothing special, but then he drives to a nearby creek and, amid the beautiful scenery, fixes a picnic lunch, which he does by hooking an AC adapter to his cigarette lighter and plugging up an automatic juicer in the cargo compartment. He puts the vegetables and a couple of ice cubes into the device, and in less than a minute he’s drinking an all-fresh natural treat which is undoubtedly so good for one’s health that I would keel over after just one sip. But drinking fresh, pure juice beside a sparkling stream was, in that moment, so appealing to me that I would have risked it.
(Coincidentally, the movie had an uplifting title, as well: “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.” The truth hurts.) Next morning, I said to myself, “Self, as the great theme song from the 1967 James Bond film reminds us, ‘You Only Live Twice.’” Translation: We needed a juicer.
So when the stores opened, I made a meticulous comparison of prices and features, which took about a minute and a half, and speeded home to start juicing fruits and vegetables. My kitchen time since then has been divided between learning the mechanics of the process (not exactly rocket science, but still) and doing taste tests to determine what juices taste best with which. (Whom?) Some initial findings:
— Carrot juice. Probably the best-tasting all-around vegetable juice, especially for people who are inching their way toward juice from diet sodas and/or Jack Daniels. And the color is so cool!
— Celery juice. Unfortunately, this tastes about like you’d expect. But it has a nice aroma and is bursting with nutrients, so I’m finding it to be a good mixer. Carrot/celery/beet is an interesting combination. Speaking of which...
—Beet juice. If you are, like me, a fan of pickled beets at church suppers, the straight variety will be something of a letdown. But the taste is growing on me, especially with big dollops of salt and pepper added to the mix. And a combo of beet/apple is turning out to be an unlikely favorite of mine. Because, after all...
—Apple juice. Along with orange, this is the reigning champeen of Juice World, and with good reason. But why go to the trouble of rolling your own, when you can buy both off the shelf fairly cheap? Check the bottles’ labels, and you’ll find commercial apple and orange concoctions are loaded with additives. Nothing dangerous enough to stun a billy goat’s system, but they do interfere with the natural taste of the fruits, I’m finding.
Then, there are...
—The leftovers. When juice comes out the nozzle, the fruits’ and vegetables’ pulp is shuttled over into a big plastic bin for later. There’s less of this than I expected, because apparently fresh produce is some huge percent liquid. Who woulda thought?
The easiest way to deal with accumulated pulp (besides trashing it) is to toss it in the compost pile for next spring’s garden. But where’s the fun in that? Thanks to the Internet Age, you can easily find a wealth of fruit pulp...recipes. Seriously.
The most promising of these, though I wouldn’t try saying it three times fast, is “Mighty Juice Pulp Muffins.” Just mix carrot and apple pulp with a banana, wheat flour, chopped walnuts, nutmeg, and a few other things, and you’ve got a muffin so natural that it could raise Euell Gibbons from the grave.
Haven’t cooked them yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
One last caveat: If you decide to go the juice route and search the Internet, you’ll find occasional pieces about juice that are NOT what you’re looking for. Namely, “juice” is currently slang for (a) steroids, and (b) an even more dangerous substance defined by the Urban Dictionary as “Respect and credibility on the street...a/k/a, ‘sauce.’”
So I’ll skip the Juice and the Sauce, please. Now, all I’m lacking is (a) a car charger for our juicer, and (b) a pretty creek, preferably warm, for nutritional creekside snacking. I’ll keep you posted.
Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, photos and radio features are available on his website, carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program “Music from Home” airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 FM, streams live online at www.oldies1015fm.com and is archived afterward on his website.