• Ian McClellan

Week 43: I will stand up for juice.

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

I was watching a recipe video on Instagram this week, and it got me thinking that the world is full of strange contradictions, and inequalities that exist only in our minds.

I know, strange isn’t it, the things that set you off. I don’t know exactly why.

On reflection, I think it was because the chef in question prefaced each phase of the construction of the meal with: this is super easy. They would then proceed to peel three types of tomato, grate a thousand cloves of garlic in about four seconds, and toss items that I’d never heard of into an industrial grade skillet on an open fire.

I didn’t watch to the end. I felt a bit inadequate.

It also made me feel a connection and an inspiration stirring, because I think often we all feel a bit inadequate at moments when no-one else is thinking that, or even thinking about us at all. Did you apologise today for something, only to be met with a puzzled expression?

What happened that triggered my emotion, was that the recipe was described as super-easy, when it wasn’t super easy for me. It is my own problem. I should have just accepted that I do not find joy in the parallel drizzle of balsamic on a salad, or that I can become easily overwhelmed by meticulous instructions. I believed what they said. I believed a comparison to myself, that wasn’t even there.

We are better than we think we are.

But still, this is what we do. And it gets us stuck in a loop.

It is the loop that means we share pictures that make it look like we’re happy, even when we feel sad. We cringe at our own reflections, but celebrate the imperfect differences in others that makes them unique and fabulous. We tell others to be themselves like it’s a rule, but we don’t follow the same rule ourselves. We say sorry, even if it wasn’t out fault.

There is a happy ending to this negative energy, because it gave me inspiration for this week’s change. It also might sound a bit hypocritical, but I can explain.

This week, I will stand up for juice.

I love juice. But I am aware that juicing has become a verb and can become an obsession. I’m aware that in some places, we have as many juice bars appearing on our streets as cocktail bars. That a juice with ginger in it will invoke an exotic sunset, and one with pineapple will likely reference a Hawaiian beach. And that both will cost somewhere near the air-fare of getting to either.

I realise there are specific juices for after exercise, those for when we are anxious and trying to sleep or have a hangover and are trying to stay awake. I am aware that rainbows of colour, and the medicinal priorities of exotic ingredients, are standard these days for juices. I am aware that juices are filmed being prepared at high speed and set to music, or are constructed from thirty-seven soft fruits from four continents and a herb from the Moon. That a breakfast juice in a fashionable district is an important an accessory as a bag or good pair of shoes.

In other words, - juices, in lots of ways, are the opposite of what I was just talking about, and that I shouldn’t go anywhere near recipe videos for juice videos – they will not do my body image, or any other type of confidence any good.

But I love juice. I love the fact they have become art, but at the same time I feel the need to stand up for juice, and not allow that to be a barrier to trying them out.

So, please let me give an alternative view to juice, that might motivate more of us to invest in a juicer, as a wonderfully functional and planetwise piece of machinery. Let me stand up, and loudly and proudly make the case that juices do not need to be hard to make, and do not have to be beautiful.

A good juice is vibrant and colourful, but a good juice can also be (and usually is) browny-green. A good juice can be as beautiful as a dry-ice cocktail at a high-end bar, but can also be five things bunged in a glass.

A juice is an expression and a metaphor, but also a juice is a good way of using up fruit and vegetables, that are about to go off. They are a good partner to smoothie machines at least for our climate here in the UK, because they are much better suited to extract something tasty from root vegetables such as carrots. You might like the idea of a strawberry and carrot smoothie, but in my experience this comes out like a really bad soup rather than a morning pep.

That is my case for juice. I cannot say that it is easy, because I don’t know if it is for others. But I do know that we should not be scared of juice, just as we should not be scared that our salads are a mess.

This is real for us right now. We invested in a Sage juicer a few years ago, and maybe we don’t use it for 12-months of the year, but certainly in apple season it gets a workout and we are in the midst of apple season right now. We are lucky enough to have a small number of apple trees in our garden, and we have made it our mission each year to use enough of them ourselves, and save enough for the blackbirds to gorge on, that none go to waste.

The gadget has a cost, but at the same time, I believe that if you invest in something that operates in the gap between convenient and inconvenient, then it can be a planetwise choice. A litre of juice, might use twenty apples or so, and considering we’ll pay up to £5 or more for an orchard brand of juice that might be packaged in a small plastic bottle or a carton, this kind of juicing can quickly make the purchase of a machine a good investment.

I am sure there are also manual ways of squeezing juice from a carrot, but if I am honest with myself then it is very unlikely I’d do that. I believe that many of us, will have cartons of juice in the fridge and at the same time we have tossed old fruit and vegetables in the compost or the landfill. We don’t connect one to the other, but a juicer can create that bridge. Our Sage juicer in one year, worked for 3-hours straight juicing apples at the end of the season without a care, and the end-product can then be bottled, frozen, and can give you fresh apple juice every weekend for months.

Apple season is a great example of simple juicing. If you live anywhere near anyone who grows apples, then you’ll identify with this as you see windfall apples everywhere. Strewn across lawns, or in great wheelbarrow-loads for free at the end of driveways. Apples that have fallen from the tree and are not considered good for the fruit bowl.

If you own an apple tree, you can be forgiven for not being able to use them, because they can quickly get on top of you. An average apple pie will only use a few apples and uses other ingredients that are not always to hand, and so quickly the ground becomes covered in apples that are good for the birds, animals and for the soil, but can also be put to good use as juice for yourself or for others, that might have otherwise been purchased. Apples are also a fabulous sweet base for any juice, a bit like bananas tend to be for smoothies.

Embracing juice also gave us confidence to go further – and this this weekend is our annual cider making day. We decided to take the pressure off the electrical gadgets for this a few years back, and we have invested in manual press for this task. We are on our fourth year of making cider, and it has become the start of a tradition for a few friends and neighbours. Co-operatives like this are springing up everywhere, and you can either make it yourself, or join together with others. We just have a few households involved, but we can manage enough cider for everyone to get ten litres or so.

This year, we have not been able to have the usual gathering given that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, but we were still able to shake the trees, and give our family the experience of getting their hands into the earth, and we have still been able to share some of the juice, and eventually we’ll share the cider. This is also not hard to achieve. You seal the juice in fermenting bins, add a sprinkle of yeast, and the wonder of nature takes care of the rest. Everything we learned about cider, we learned from You Tube, and from failing. But there is nothing quite like cider, that you took from the tree, pressed with your own hands, and chilled to the point that you can’t quite taste the edge to it. We won’t win any official awards, but we feel like champions of achievement in our own minds and our own lives.

I guess in the end, this is a message. It is planetwise but also it is humanwise. We are better than we think we are. We are a world under pressure and because of that, we need to find joy in the ways that we find joy, and us alone. Let’s remove our personal boundaries and comparisons, because we are likely never going to be good enough for ourselves at everything, at least not consistently. But that does not matter if you are consistently good enough for others? Artists do not expect their audience to be able to replicate what they are doing. If they tell us something is easy, they are not judging us, they are giving their opinion or assertion for themselves. They are simply sharing something they love in the only way they know.

And what does not matter if you’re not that good, but you love doing it. Most of the time, we are not listening to others anyway. We should dance like no-one is watching, because likely they are not anyway.

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