In the world of puritan health foodies, Welch's grape, Capri Sun, and even Tropicana are not acceptable examples of "juice." The word, and associated terms like "juice fasting," "juicing," or "on the juice," instead refer to the nutrient-rich liquid produced by the complete removal of skin, pulp, pits, and fiber from a fruit or vegetable, through use of specialized juice-extracting machinery.
This product was the center of celebration at the communal space above the soon-to-be-open Choices Vegan Cafe (379 SW 15th St.) Saturday night. Juice bartenders worked up a sweat as they chopped and fed pound after pound of organic produce into various juicing machines and blenders. Vegans, raw foodists, animal rights activists, open-mined laypeople, and eccentrics congregated to toast the fruits (or the juice of the fruits) of nature's genius, guzzling organic wheatgrass, sweet potato, carrot, strawberry, ginger, sunflower greens, celery, kale, beet, jalapeno, lemon, orange, and many other juices. All told, the juicesters cranked out at least 25 pitchers of unique juice cocktails throughout the night, while raw vegan DJ Golden Del (AKA Jordan Franchini-Wolfe) spun smooth house music he likes to call "organic beats." Watch this video produced by Aiden Dillard for a vivid look at the shindig:
The party was hosted by Alex Cuevas, vegan activist and founder of the forthcoming Choices Cafe. It marks the end of a mass 5- or 7-day juice fast led by Cuevas via Facebook, which involved upwards of 50 people. Fasters and non-fasters were equally welcomed, so long as they paid the entrace fee: a bag of organic produce.
"We had a lot of different pockets of people come through the door. We have raw vegans and vegetarians talking to people who aren't, exchanging ideas and communicating, so I think it was great," Cuevas said. "I think people learned that they can make all kinds of different smoothies and juices and diversify their options. Sometimes you get stuck thinking that a juice is made only a certain way or you think a juice tastes like crap because it's made with "X-Y-Z," but you here see that you can put in "A-B-C," you could put "X-G-S," there's all kinds of combinations of numbers and letters that you can put in to make lots of juices or smoothies."
He said he plans to initiate shorter group juice fasts in the future, and provide more education and guidance throughout the fasts to keep participants motivated. "I think that the juice fast plus the juice party is an excellent combination. It's a great learning experience for me, because I saw that I had 54 people or so join the fast, and about a fifth to a third actually succeed in it. So that tells me that there's great promise for it. I just think there's a bit more handling that needs to happen, and tying this event in at the end of the fast is a great way to celebrate."
As seen in the award-winning documentary, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead (about an overweight and chronically ill guy who loses 60 pounds and completely cures himself of disease simply by juicing) the first few days of the fast are the hardest, and Cuevas' experience was no different. "It took me a little while to get over the hump of being really hungry and irritated and loopy, and after about the third, fourth, fifth day, I was kinda cruising," he said. "You don't know how good food is until you stop eating it for a little while, then you can really appreciate it. When I broke the fast tonight, my stomach shrank, so what you could usually eat, let's say four units of volume, I was only able to eat about a one and a half. And I felt satiated and I appreciated the food a lot more, so that's one of the things you get from fasting, the spirituality and the resetting of the metabolism, and resetting your appetite as well."
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Among guests at the juice party was Amanda Resto, raw vegan chef at T.H.R.I.V.E. (The Healthy Raw Inspired Vegan Experience) in Miami Beach (1239 Alton Road). When asked whether she felt threatened by the emergence of another vegan restaurant across the water, she said "I'm actually happy, because competition is good. It just stimulates people to move around and have more options, which kind of keeps them habitual with the lifestyle. If they don't have enough options, people will fall back to their lifestyles of eating the wrong way. Other people are too busy or don't know how to prepare raw food or vegan food, so eating out is like their answer. And without these places, there wouldn't be choices, and that's what this restaurant is all about is 'choices.'"
She didn't hear about the mass juice fast in time to participate, but she's done several juice fasts before and knows her way around a juicer. "Tonight I've had juices with dulse [salty seaweed flakes] and jalapeno, and greens, and then I had a smoothie with sweet potato, pineapple and coconut. Many different interesting blends. As people are arriving and delivering vegetables, they're just kind of combining what they have available for the moment, but it's been really tasty and we should do more events that promote health."
The next meetup Cuevas is hosting at the cafe (which will have a "soft" opening in the coming weeks) is a Vinyasa yoga class taught by Lori Zito, followed by a green juice cocktail mixer, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sunday July 17th. R.S.V.P. via Facebook.