New York has pizza, Chicago has hot dogs, and Los Angeles has green juice.
Beyond renewed juice cleanses that arise every hour and surrounding fads, green juice is a lifestyle. Since the 18th century, California citrus juices were renowned for their healing properties, and by the 1880’s, early iterations of Sunkist corporation and others were profiting wildly off of the claim. Juice bars served as a tourist trap in Abbot Kenney’s dream of the Venice of America, symbolizing a vision for a better life.
Google, “juice los angeles”, and an overwhelming number of listicles pop up. There’s no end to the number of blogs that promote the best information on which combination of vegetables do X, Y, or Z, and the best places to get it. And with trite and over-simplified sayings such as, “Health is wealth,” and “Being healthy feels good,” juice bars emit a friendly and encouraging, albeit a bit holier-than-thou, air, enticing patrons to buy into sentiments of security of purity and well-being.
In 2015, the cold pressed juice market was estimated at $100 million a year, and it’s still going strong. However, even in The Cold Press Juice Bible, which is sold at many LA juice shops, the health benefits are questioned in that the “jury is still out on whether your body can absorb the nutrients more easily in liquid form or if there’s any advantage in giving your digestive system a break from working on fiber.” But it remains a status symbol: a way to show the world you’re working on bettering yourself, or at least on being entrenched in the LA way.
With all of its aesthetically-pleasing hoopla, who can resist the prestige of the Beverly Hills Juice Club… Or the adorable eccentricities of Moon Juice’s “plant-sourced alchemy,” a trademarked phrase that represents the promise of vitality and perhaps, if anything, a chicer life?
Actually, as I had yet to experience Moon Juice, I ventured into the Venice location. Granted I felt scrubby as the water was out in my apartment that day, but I can see the attraction of wanting to improve things in your life in an easy and somewhat tangible way. With their pretty and appealing potions and lotions a’plenty designed to serve you in a wide variety of ways, it’s understandable that enthusiasm still rages for such products. It took a lot of determination to deny the hard sell tactics employed to get me to purchase the starter pack of Moon Dusts that would provide for better sex, intellectual processing, and general outlook on life, apparently, but I mustered enough strength to refuse.
I decided on getting “Goodness Greens,” made up celery, cucumber, spinach, kale, parsley, and dandelion, and was told, “Oooh, love it. Good choice,” by the chipper and gorgeous brunette with glowing, flawless skin behind the counter. Quite frankly, their hiring had worked, because I wanted whatever it was she had. (The beverage I got touts the notion of being a “joy promoter.” Maybe she’d just had a lot?) So I asked what it was that she loves so much about what I was buying.
“It’s the essential green juice, which I think is all about dedication to self, you know? You get good sleep, go to the gym, and drink your green juice. It’s just what you do,” she explained. And in LA where there’s endless emphasis on self, it makes sense that green juice stands for the indulgent improvement-geared mentality our city revolves around. And for the record, the $11 Moon Juice I drank was heavenly.
At 27, despite being born and raised in LA, Kim Rollins has never had green juice. “I’m the last of the Mohicans in LA,” she quips. Omitting this from her life was a deliberate decision for her, as a way to lash out her resentment toward Los Angeles culture.
For the sake of this article, she meets me at The Juice Parlor in North Hollywood where I get her a concoction of apple, celery, cucumber, kale, and lemon called, “New Kid on the Block,” which felt appropriate. While it’s the one of the more popular items on the menu, the slender, blonde athleisure wearing clerk notes, “People think it’s healthy, because it’s green. But it’s really not. It has an apple in it.” Heaven forbid.
Counteracting the rite she is about to perform, Kim lights up a cigarette before taking her first sip, “I fucking hate the bullshitty-happy-healthy people here. That’s what green juice symbolizes to me.”
She doesn’t mind the juice, but doesn’t feel compelled to convert. Not that a juice itself would do such a thing; the juice is but a manifestation of the lifestyle. So to a twenty-something in a long, floral dress who tells her to put out her cigarette, she says, “Get over yourself.” Perhaps a valuable lesson for all us Angelenos.