All juiced up

Musings about France, food and fruit juices

While living in France a few years ago, I gained a newfound appreciation for many edible things, cheese, raw milk, chocolate croissants and tiny cups of espresso among them. Wine and fresh produce are also things the French do especially well, though coming from Northern California, I was already spoiled in that regard.

Perhaps one of the biggest differences I noticed between French and American eating habits was apparent in the grocery aisles, not at the farmers’ market. Of course they sell things we love, like potato chips (rotisserie chicken flavor?!) and cookies (apparently they’re not big fans of the chewy variety), but in general they’re more focused on fresh, whole foods than processed crap. That’s part of their lifestyle—they take the time to cook and enjoy their meals, rather than relying on rushed microwave dinners. (The entire nine months I was in France I had no microwave, and it was actually quite nice. To this day I don’t own one.)

Nestled along those grocery shelves, I discovered something so simple it was magical: juice. Orange juice. Mango juice. Blueberry juice. The nectar of pineapples, peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries, strawberries. You name the fruit, they probably juice it, bottle it and sell it. Here in the U.S., we tend to like juice combos: orange-mango-pineapple or cran-apple-cherry. In France, it was mostly just straight from one fruit. Simple and amazing.

Upon returning to the States, I began to search out the foods I learned to love in France. The cheeses were probably the easiest to find, though I’m not sure any American cheese shop will ever truly compare. Croissants—I eat them rarely because they’re rarely good here. Tin Roof Bakery does the best job locally. And raw milk is practically demonized Stateside, so I ain’t getting that fix.

Back to juice. A few months after my return, I started to crave strawberry juice. And mango, peach, pear … you get the gist. But these were difficult to find. Kern’s does a pretty good job with mango, peach and apricot juices. And Knudsen’s—which is headquartered right here in Chico—makes a pretty killer peach nectar. I also like their “Just Juice” line, which includes some unique fruits, like blueberry (yum) and black currant.

Most exciting, though, is Hernandez Farm (156 W. Eaton Road) and its impressive juice and smoothie bar. And not long ago, Jamba Juice added a bunch of yummy fresh juices to its menu. The new kid on the block is Live Life Juice Co., which recently moved into the Saturday Chico Certified Farmers’ Market. I haven’t tried them yet—they’re next on my list—but just looking at their Facebook page, I can tell you I like their style. Reusable jars, fun logo, creative juice names like Turn the Beet Around.

About a year ago I actually broke down and bought a juicer. I’ve used it infrequently but (almost) always to great satisfaction. But now, when the American in me wants something fast and on-the-go—or just doesn’t want to peel 15 oranges—at least there are a few options for good juice around. And for that, I say merci.