Our bodies are miraculous machines, almost as intuitive and user-friendly as Steve Jobs' creations. They try to tell us what is good for us, try to steer us in the right direction. When we need rest, we get tired. When we need to eat, we get hungry. Even what, specifically, we are hungry for is a coded message from the corporeal realm.
When we are hung over, we feel like a greasy diner breakfast because our body knows it will sop up the booze. When we have a head cold, we yearn for the sinus-clearing hot and sour soup from the late, great In Soo. When we have PMS, we crave chocolate and kindness.
Certain foods have medicinal, nearly magical properties. We don't mean "super foods" like walnuts and blueberries, green tea and red wine. The way those work is more like math - if you eat lots foods rich in omega 3's and antioxidants, then over time you will have fewer health problems and probably live to a ripe old age.
We're talking about foods that are so curative and sustaining that your body rewards their consumption with an immediate flush of vim and vigor, like Popeye's spinach. We can't think of anything scarier than slimy, room-temperature canned spinach, but we would happily sub in some of our famous recipe collard greens. Their pot liquor - the salty, smoky, vinegary, hot-sauce-laden broth, as muddy and green as swamp water - is so potent it feels like a single tablespoon could cure cancer.
Though we have never succeeded, we have often tried to reproduce Grandma's homemade applesauce. She bought apples by the bushel from her country neighbors and cooked them to a smooth, velvety consistency, almost like baby food. She put the yield in empty Cool Whip containers and froze it, so whenever we visited, any time of year, we might have this bracingly tart, semi-frozen slush, packed with apple goodness and grandma love.
These are the foods that fix you up, that send you back out into the world ready to take on the bully and win the girl, or finish that project at work. Fresh-squeezed O.J. is like that. Anemic grocery store juice is the "through a mirror, darkly" version, a (literal) pale imitation of the real thing. Here the color is so orange it practically glows, the flavor is brighter, fuller and truer. It is even more intensely orangey than eating an orange segment, as oil is released from the peel during juicing.
Ordering fresh juice feels decadent. Maybe because demanding that someone bring you freshly-squeezed juice, or even asking politely, recalls the old Mae West line, "Beulah, peel me a grape." Also, it's a tad expensive.
The Vine Mediterranean Cafe & Market (3171 South Grand Boulevard; 314-776-0991) sells a big glass for $2.99, not much more than what most places charge for the bottled stuff. They also offer apple, mango, grape and carrot juices, or a combination of any three, all juiced to order.
Before we finish the glass, an endorphin drip starts trickling down our spine. This is what Five Hour Energy Shots claim to do, minus about 140 mg of caffeine. We feel perked up, revived, like we're firing on all cylinders. It's like having a vigorous workout, a hot shower, and an afternoon nap all rolled into one. Sure, sugar and vitamin C account for some of this feeling of well-being, but eating a Hershey bar and popping a vitamin C supplement wouldn't have the same effect.
We do not have a juice fast or a raw food cleanse in our future. We will continue to routinely override our body's suggestions on how to be healthy. We will stay up too late, gorge on salt & vinegar chips, and skip our run in favor of watching Gossip Girl. When these choices catch up to us, we will feel bad. It's good to know that, for a few bucks, the friendly folks at The Vine will make us some fresh juice and send us on our way with a spring in our step.