Day 275 – National Orange Juice Day

In a galaxy far, far away, there were orange trees. It was a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, low in Vitamin C, striking from a hidden base, won their first victory against the evil Tropicana Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate juice, Concentrate with Pulp, an orange byproduct designed to take over the fresh squeezed juice world. Pursued by the Empire’s sinister marketers, Princess Lola raced home, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore delicious juice to the galaxy….

That’s what happens when you have a holiday like Star Wars Day on the same day as National Orange Juice Day. Star Wars Day, which is celebrated on May 4th for the silly tie in of being able to say, “May the Forth be with you,” seemed to be the big holiday today that took over social media (as much as Trump and the GOP would let it). I’m a fan of the Star Wars franchise, but I’m no fanatic. I can boast that I actually saw the first installment in the movie theaters. It was in Danbury, CT which was the closest movie house to our summer cottage and my Dad took the lot of us to go see it. I can’t say it stands out as a movie that blew me away. I liked it. I liked the next two as well, but it would never make my list of top 25 movies. It was and is just sci-fi fun. I was excited when it came back for the second trilogy although I never got around to watching episode three. Heyden Christensen’s overacting made me lose interest in finishing the movies. When it came back again for the third trilogy with the addition of JJ Abrams as director, my interest waxed again. I went to the theater by myself to watch it. I thought that movie was pretty good, but still not what I consider a great movie. Just cinematic fun. Even though I am the ideal candidate to be immersed in Star Wars culture (nerdy young male who grew up in the era), it never really became a thing for me. So it’s hard to get behind a holiday like Star Wars Day with any true sincerity.

Orange juice however I can get behind. Not that I am an orange juice fanatic either, but I do really like it when it is fresh squeezed. Growing up, when you see that image of the perfect breakfast with eggs, toast, cereal and orange juice, I could never get behind the OJ. I’d opt for Hi-C instead. I’d go with the orange flavor too because I guess that was technically orange juice in that it was classified as juice and it was indeed orange. That changed when they came out with the Ecto Cooler and I had to go with the green stuff. Actual orange juice from that era wasn’t something I loved. Plus my mom would make it from frozen concentrate which always made it kind of watery. I liked making it – scooping out the frozen slush, adding water and stirring like crazy. I just wouldn’t drink it. On occasion, I would enjoy grapefruit juice which means that I had very odd tastebuds as a kid. I guess I liked the tartness. I’ve always loved citrus fruit especially oranges, so it was weird that I never liked orange juice. That was until I got it fresh squeezed.

It seems odd, but my first memory of fresh squeezed juice was at a spot on New York City about 12 years ago. (I had to have had it fresh squeezed juice before that, right?) In any case, as I recall this was a time when Lola was living in New York and I was visiting her. We went out to brunch on a Sunday (that’s what you do in NYC), and the restaurant had this giant contraption that you could see whole oranges rolling into and fresh juice coming out. When I looked at the menu, it offered regular orange juice or fresh squeezed orange juice. I decided to try the fresh squeezed. Wow! What a difference. This juice tasted like oranges. So good, so refreshing. So simple. It was the juice of an orange served nice and cold and it changed my whole perspective on fresh juice. I think I bought a hand orange juice squeezer after that so I could make it at home. Now whenever I see fresh OJ on a menu, I get involved.

It’s not that I never had the other stuff. I can drink it and it’s never bad, I just prefer it fresh or not at all. On occasion, if I was feeling sick or a cold was coming on, I would stop on my way to work and get an orange juice. My thinking was that I could give my body a quick Vitamin C boost. Apparently all that’s really doing is giving me a sugar boost, so even though it’s a remedy in my mind, it’s really just the fluids and sugar that are making me feel better. Like many, my first experience with booze involved OJ too and I remember being at a cousin’s wedding and ordering screwdrivers. It was the perfect crime – any adult that saw me would just think I was just sipping orange juice (and then making a cringing face). I probably had too many of them that night too. OJ became a mixer of choice in those early days of alcohol. Then you outgrow that phase. Nowadays, if we ever host a brunch, I’ll always pick up a bottle of OJ for the table. I think it’s good to have in case anyone wants a little juice with their breakfast, plus it’s good for mimosas which I am a fan of.

Last year we had a night when our niece Savannah slept over at our house for her first sleepover. Savvy was so excited and had exactly what the night would be mapped out in her fascinating little mind. We heard her first order of business was going to be a pillow fight, so right when she came in, Lola and I bombarded her with pillows and the fight had begun. In any case, when we had breakfast the next morning, I decided to make some fresh squeezed orange juice. Savvy saw me squeezing the orange halves and naturally wanted to help. I had already squeezed a bunch of them but I gave her an orange half to juice. Then I told her that was all the juice we were going to get and moved on. Savvy however still wanted to squeeze and she felt there was more juice left. For the next thirty minutes, she went back and kept squeezing all the orange halves that I had finished with and ended up probably doubling the yield of juice that I had gotten. I couldn’t believe it. She was so proud of herself too and it made her enjoy her juice that much more. That’s one determined kid (and a helluva a squeezer).

Today I went to make my own fresh squeezed juice. I was going to use our hand squeezer but then I saw our juicer machine that sits on the counter taunting us. This is a machine Lola uses on occasion to make fresh green juice to start her day. She tosses in cucumbers, apples, kale, spinach, carrots and all kinds of things that will fill her soul with goodness. She kind of goes in waves with it where she uses it for like a month straight, then gets tired of the juice and walks away. So it sits idle a lot, but it’s there when we need it so good to have easy access too. I decided to use that today to make my orange juice. I peeled four oranges (which is no easy task) and after I peeled them, put the orange halves right into the juicer’s feeder. I suppose I could have kept the rinds on and it would have still juiced everything, but I didn’t want to mar the favor with the rind, so I went skins off. In seconds, juice was flowing into the pitcher that catches the juice from the machine. It was frothy too with froth taking up half the container. I poured it into a glass to enjoy but I cleaned up the machine before I drank the juice. One thing I learned is that you are always better off cleaning the juicer right away otherwise the debris from the juiced fruits and vegetables will be harder to clean off the machine parts. When I was done, I walked into my office with a glass full of this beautiful bounty.

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This looks like I’m promoting Foxon Park soda, but it’s just the logo on the pint glass (although Foxon Park soda is the best soda in the world). I also tried to bring in the Star Wars theme too which explains the TIE Fighter shooting at the OJ in the background. This juice was just what I thought it would be – fantastic. It tasted like nice ripe oranges. It was chilled because I had used chilled oranges and it was all pure juice (no pulp). There was a small foam on the top and that was fine, but the star was just the pure juice which was a refreshing delight. I enjoyed every sip. I kept some in the fridge too for Lola to see if she wanted some, and when she had it, she said it was the best juice she had ever had. Sometimes it just hits the spot. I think it filled us with the fresh nutrients and goodness that we were craving and that just felt good.

Basically I had a glass of orange juice today while I watched the internet explode with all kinds of silly Star Wars references, clips and quotes. I will say it is kind of clever to celebrate Star Wars on May 4th. As a franchise that has been around for nearly 40 years, it definitely deserves recognition for its impact on pop culture. But OJ deserves its celebration too. It’s the juice that has been on our tables since we were born. The juice that is almost synonymous with breakfast. I didn’t mean to disrespect all those who buy the orange juice in cartons. That type of juice certainly has it’s value in convenience, tastiness and even in its own unique flavor. I just prefer the freshly squeezed kind which is almost a different animal. If you have never made your own, I suggest giving it a try. It will change the way you look at orange juice and that’s what I celebrated today. Give it a try. And if you are having a hard time getting juice out, just use a little force. It is with you.

Next up: Cinco de Mayo 

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