Thursday, June 9, 2011

Spring Juice Craze in the Cafeteria

Peer pressure to drink kale juice...that's what I witnessed yesterday. I never thought I would utter these words to teens, 'Back away from the veggies!' But as the crowd formed around the fresh vegetable and fruit juices that we were giving out in the cafeteria, I realized one of my primary jobs was going to be crowd control. That's why I don't have any good pictures of what ensued.

In the Go Green! class that I co-teach with the Community Action Now teacher, the teens have been brainstorming how to improve their school lunch. For their mastery work, each student is submitting a proposal to the school lunch coordinator for evaluation. One of the ideas that so many of the teens love is juice: fresh, raw, delicious juice. The lunch program loved the idea of allowing our class to do a juice demo yesterday in the cafeteria and pass out free samples. The teens have been experimenting with the juicer and blender and they have discovered how raw juices can blend sweet, earthy, and spicy flavors in unexpected ways.

We toured a local juice shop at Utica and Midwood whose owner opened the store because her parents both died from diet-related diseases. On the wall, she has a list of juices that help whatever is ailing you from stress to eczema to cancer. The owner had us sample one of her best sellers, the Morning Surprise, which was cucumber, grapefruit, parsley, orange, and cayenne. I have always been a fan of the kale, pear, parsley, lemon, ginger mix. Cayenne was a revelation for me even more than ginger ever was, it was surprisingly refreshing on a hot day.

I knew the teens in our class were open to trying these beautiful concoctions, but how would these juices be perceived by the rest of the school? As the teens first stormed the fruit smoothies yesterday in the cafeteria, one brave soul approached the first green juice that we had prepared (cucumber, lemon, apple). Once he yelled, 'It's GO-OD!' a line formed for green juice. I watched as peer pressure set in. 'Try this. You'll like it!' and all my fears of total veggie boycott dissolved. Next, we juiced kale and collards from the farm, and it was all devoured. Of course, not everyone liked the green juices, but at least they got to try something new. The teens in our class have become fresh veggie mixologists: they understand that the key to a delicious recipe is a well-rounded flavor palate. I watched the teens get more and more adventurous. Even though they had a list of recipes they had already taste-tested and were going to make for the crowd, they started making juices recipes up on the spot, 'What would kale and blueberries taste like?' Now they know.