When I was much younger, children were powered by juice. TV adverts were populated by affable scamps who squelched muddy footprints across kitchen floors to down glasses of OJ before returning to wholesome outdoor pursuits, such as poking hedgehogs with sticks. These days, juice is a grimly adult form of sustenance and the names of some of the leading products on the market – Nutribullet, Nutri Ninja – suggest something dangerous out there: a Viet Cong of fruit salad in urgent need of liquidation. In testing out these juicers, I chose a combination of ginger, celery, kale and apple: the first three, because their stringiness ought to give the machines a decent workout; and apples, to make the concoction moderately palatable.
Both theologically and mechanically, liquidisers divide into two camps. On one side, are the juicers, which squeeze the fruit dry. This is done first by masticating the produce, before cold-pressing it. The kind folk at Juice Tonic, a juice bar in Soho, London’s foremost juicing quartier, demonstrated to me their Norwalk – the granddaddy of juicers, and still, at $2,495 (£1,720), one of the most expensive. On the other side, stand the blenders, which churn the fibrous matter into a smoothie. Both parties contend, with the certainty of the elect, that their method is the healthiest.
Last year’s Christmas bestseller, the Nutribullet ($90/£64), claims to be neither of these: it self-defines as a “nutrient extractor”. I had presumed that my digestive tract, honed through 300m years of evolution, was a perfectly serviceable nutrient extractor, so it was good to be unillusioned. The Nutribullet (actually just another blender) mashed the ingredients very quickly, but the result was unappetising. The “recipe book”– an alarmist tract that elaborates the multiple ways you might injure yourself or the device with the kind of red-lettered signage you’d find if you accidentally wandered into a live-fire exercise – insists that you top up with water. This made the smoothie both dilute and queasily creamy. Flecks of apple peel hung in it like grit.
The Novis Vita Juicer ($500/£300) is gentler. The elegant red barrel modestly conceals its blades. It makes no effort to impress with a blur of knife work and is agnostic on the question of juicing v blending, offering both services. The juice tasted full-bodied; the machine dealt efficiently with the crudités and the smoothie was pleasantly pappy.
The Magimix Le Duo ($260/£180) boasts the same range as the Vita Juicer, though it’s significantly less accomplished. It’s prone to give a fey little leap into the air when nudged. The manual encouraged me to push a whole apple down the feeder tube. Geometrically, this seemed implausible, and I gave up when I heard incipient fracturing – the sort of tinkling, I imagine, that freezes the blood of mountaineers just before an avalanche. Having wiggled the apple back out, I reintroduced the ingredients chopped. The juice was well coloured, but strands of kale lurked within.
The popularity of these machines is not fortuitous; they speak to the age of austerity. By devouring the whole vegetable, peel and all, waste is obliterated. What was it that Marx said? “All that is solid blends into juice?” Something like that.