In complex family relationship, the gift of juicer unexpectedly helps peace flow
I was perfectly happy with my old juicer. A compact Juiceman Jr. that I bought for $12 at a thrift store was all I needed for the occasional apple ginger chard juice I’d make with extra greens from the garden or to help get rid of that 15-pound bag of grapefruit I found on sale.
But when my grandmother recently purged her belongings and moved to Austin, she gave me her old Champion, a beast of a machine that’s more like a jet engine than juicer.
If you’ve been reading this column, this isn’t the grandmother with the 19th-century bread knife who makes killer peach pies back in my small hometown in Missouri. This is my dad’s mom, to whom, quite frankly, I’ve never been that close because their relationship has been so complicated. With little communication through the majority of my life, I didn’t know much about her, and she didn’t know much about me, that is, until the past few years when she and my dad started to rebuild their relationship.
After her husband died in April, she moved to Austin to be closer to my aunt. She brought with her the Champion and the red, shag-lined cover she sewed for it that makes it look like a Scottish terrier standing on the kitchen counter. Why? To give to me. (She
kept the matching toaster cover.)
If food can be a language of love, so can food gadgetry. Like most grandmothers, Mimi speaks food (her macaroni and cheese and meatloaf are particularly eloquent), but it’s easier, physically, on her now to give me something that I’ll use again and again to feed myself and my family.
The juicer, it seems, was her peace offering. She might not see it that way, but I do. For the first time since I was 6, we’re living in the same state and are now both finally willing to get to know each other as adults. After the long, rocky road that led our family to where we are, Mimi and I are essentially starting our relationship from scratch.
It’s only been a few weeks since she moved down here, but in that time, we’ve seen each other more than we did during my entire adolescence. I’ll drop by her house on the way to an interview in her far North Austin neighborhood. My husband and son are no longer strangers whose names she confuses. I’ll call her, mid-juicing, to ask a question even if I don’t really need the answer.
I admit that the first time I tried to use my new juicer, I regretted giving the old one away. My grandmother’s heavy machine is hard to move in and out of the kitchen, and its parts are harder to clean, but it grinds foods, including nuts, far better than my little thrift-store juicer could and even allows you to puree them for soups. I’m slowly adjusting to this unwieldy presence in my kitchen that I’m beginning to realize I didn’t even know I needed.
Carrots, cucumbers and cantaloupe make up a fresh glass of nutrients. I’ve expanded my juicing horizons since getting a better juicer.