Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Pandora's Orange Juice Can

My mom was a health food nut before it was cool, which meant, as the third child, I was an unwilling participant in eating healthy from birth.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m very thankful for this fact now, but there were times when I considered it extremely unfair that my friends got Froot Loops for breakfast and I was eating Grape Nuts with wheat germ sprinkled on top. I am not making that up.

She wasn’t a crazy militant “organic” nut; she just made sure that the things we ate were made with actual food products. We were not subjected to carob chips and we didn’t sacrifice our backyard and compost our own dung to attempt a “sustainable” gardening lifestyle. We shopped at the regular grocery store, but you could be damn sure we weren’t buying any soda or Pop Tarts. The bread was whole wheat and the juices were 100% juice.

Now that I’m a parent, I totally understand where she was coming from, and I’m grateful for how she fed us. My boys are not as grateful, but they will be some day, if they ever have kids of their own. They see their friends drinking neon-blue Gatorade and complain to me about my rules – specifically my food and drink color rule – if you can find me anything that grows in nature that is that same color, and then you can prove to me that they used that food to create the color, then you can have it. If they used sodium hydrochloric dimethyl acetate to make that color, you’re out of luck, kid.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think drinks should glow in the dark. I really believe that a lot of our health and allergy problems in this country can be attributed to processed foods, lab-enhanced sugars, and food dyes. Just read the label on a diet soda and think long and hard about whether aspartic acid and phenylalanine seem like things you really need to add to your body.

If someone approached you and said, “Hold still while I drip some aspartic acid and phenylalanine onto your skin,” you would punch them in the throat. But the Coca-Cola company and our incredibly trustworthy government say it’s cool to drink it, so we pour it down our throats. Not the best idea, in my opinion, but I digress.

All things considered, my two sisters and I really didn’t know any better growing up, and we were perfectly content. That is, until the fateful morning when frozen concentrated orange juice shined a light on our mom’s dietary hijinks.

One morning my oldest sister, Jill, took it upon herself to make the orange juice for the first time. Our mom always bought the frozen concentrated juice in the cardboard cans with the metal lids that were removed by pulling on the white plastic sealing ring. Those cans were always a losing proposition, because when the juice was still frozen solid, there was no way to get a good grip on the icy plastic seal, but if you let it thaw enough to be able to open it, you were guaranteed to spill some when the lid came off and the flimsy cardboard container buckled under the pressure of your grip. Good times.

So after cleaning up the spill, Jill proceeded to read the instructions on the can, and made the OJ. Minutes later, my middle sister, Heidi, and I were drinking the results.

“This is the best orange juice I’ve ever had! What did you put in this? It’s amazing!”
“Why does this taste so good? You added a bunch of sugar, didn’t you?”

"No," replied Jill, smiling. "I just didn't put the yeast in it."

You see, my mom used to add nutritional yeast to the orange juice. If you are unfamiliar, nutritional yeast is a vile, dirt-like substance that has the consistency of dandruff and tastes like hay. My entire life, up to that point, my mom had me convinced that orange juice was supposed to be gritty and have little brown flakes floating on top of it.

My sister opened Pandora's frozen concentrated orange juice container that morning, and it was the beginning of the end of my dietary naïveté. I fear that I accidentally did the same thing with my boys yesterday morning.

Most mornings, I make them a fruit smoothie. They all love them, and it's really the only proven method to get a piece of fruit into them with any regularity. The standard smoothie recipe is one apple, one banana, some milk, the secret ingredient – Hershey’s chocolate syrup – you heard me, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, and cherries (without the pits), and a handful of spinach.

The smoothie turns out to be a pretty gross-looking color of off-brown, but it’s delicious. Like I said, the boys love them. At least, they used to.

Yesterday, my brain was obviously malfunctioning, and I forgot to put the spinach in.

As I poured the smoothies into the cups, the back part of my brain was casually remarking, “Hmm, this smoothie seems much more reddish-pink than normal. I guess I put in a lot of strawberries this morning, or something.”

I am an idiot.

Son Number One took a sip and immediately asked me what was in it. I said the usual. He asked for the ingredient list. I told him. He said, “So, you put everything in it except the spinach?”


“This smoothie is amazing, Dad! Can we have it like this every day?”

For years, my wife and I have been a united front, reciting the same old line - “You can’t taste the spinach.”

Well, apparently you can.

And I’ll bet you can’t guess what happened this morning, can you?

Yep, this morning they all begged for yesterday’s amazing smoothie without the vile green weed. Sorry fellas, spinach is back in. “That was your imagination because of the color. You can’t taste the spinach!”

I’m not going to let up on the healthy eating, but they’re right. That spinach-less smoothie was pretty damn good!

They should just be happy I’m not adding nutritional yeast to the recipe.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. You can't un-taste that really good not yeastie first glass of OJ.

    P.S. Mom let us stop putting the yeast in after we all rebelled. Just sayin'. Might have to feed them actual spinach salads.


    Auntie Jill the OJ rebel

  2. I will never relent! Spinach in the smoothies or death!!