The Case Against Green Smoothies
It might be easier being green these days, but there’s still something to be said for texture.
The wine folk have their knickers in a twist about wine that’s orange. Cocktail bartenders are in a muddle over the revival of all kinds of blue. But it’s to drinks that are green that I take exception.
Green drinks that are the result of making smoothies out of salad leaves are a perverse ‘health’ trend that I’m praying will soon go the way of alfalfa. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. Bloggers, Instagrammers and the Lululemon-swaddled inhabitants of upper-demographic suburbs that wield expensive, high-speed blenders are increasingly extolling on the health benefits of a morning dram of cold, pureed green leaves. Commonly, these leaves are kale, rocket or spinach blended together with coconut water, ice, fruit and one or more ‘superfood’ powders.
Don’t be fooled however, by the green smoothie advocates’ vocal praise and beautifully styled photos of their drinks in mason jars decorated with twine bows and striped paper straws. The ‘superfoods’ in there are clearly not super enough, because these concoctions of liquid greens taste like pureed sink scraps and are a hideous insult to the textural qualities of salad leaves.
Anyone with an iota of respect for their palate will agree that greens fare terribly in the viscous state. Kale, the popular victim of the green smoothie has a warm, nutty flavour and pleasantly chewy texture that is fantastic when massaged with olive oil and tossed with cooling and crunchy textures that play against it. After a whirl in the Vitamix however, the innocent leaf is reduced to a miserable pulp that bears a closer resemblance to the mould lurking in the corner of your shower than an edible substance.
This is where green smoothies as a health proposition come unstuck. Unless licking the space between your shower tiles sounds appetising to you, the average green smoothie will require more than a spoonful of sugar to help it down. For every three kale leaves your local juice bar is putting in your large ‘green-a-rama’, there are probably enough dates, bananas and apples to send you back to the gym for another hour on the elliptical. Despite the existence of lighter recipes that don’t use fruit in favour of coconut water, mint, ginger and palate-numbing ice, all green smoothies are an exercise in hiding one’s vegetables amongst other foods that is a reversion to the eating habits of our green-resistant inner child. It is a throwback to the days when our mothers dangled desserts, promised strength of Popeye proportions and hid pureed greens in every nook and cranny of our dinners just to ensure that a few vegetables passed the lips of green-resistant children.
The elimination of chewing that occurs when greens are converted into smoothies is also problematic. Chewing ones greens requires time and a stationary, seated position that introduce the proper amount of ceremony and appreciation that food deserves. And greens do deserve much appreciation. From kale to baby spinach to cress, they offer a range of flavours and textures, from subtle to peppery and chewy to crisp. These qualities,that round out and complement our meals are sadly lost in the hands of over-zealous owners of high-speed blenders when creating their nose-wrinkling, squint-inducing sludge.
My theory is that at least half the people who drink green smoothies are mere compensators paying penance. For these people, a green smoothie serves much the same function as a few ‘Hail Marys’ on a Sunday after a week of riotous gluttony - a brief, pious pause before getting on with the ricotta hotcakes. The other half of green smoothie drinkers are the yogi types who have disappeared so far up their own bandhas that a glass of pureed kale and coconut water probably is quite a treat.
All of this, of course, is completely unnecessary self-flagellation in the name of ‘health’. Short of banning the ownership of six-cylinder blenders, we can do no greater kindness to ourselves and our greens, than to take up a knife, compose a salad and enjoy the benefits leafy vegetables with their textural integrity intact.
Text and illustration by Christina Gee
Christina also blogs at www.fussyguide.com