As a northern California-bred, yoga-teaching, adaptogen-chugging, dyed-in-the-wool woo woo wellness acolyte, my ear is always to the proverbial ground, listening for new developments in the realm of edible stuff that might make me immortal. So when I started seeing this smoothie trend pop up on my social media feeds with words like “drinkable salad” and featuring ingredients like asparagus or pickle juice, I had to know more. Some cursory digging unturned savory smoothie recipes in the annals of trendy healthy blogs that I frequent, as well as more mainstream fitness sites. At which point I thought, Whoa. Did I miss something? Are we all drinking our salads now?
I soon learned that savory smoothies have been a thing for a while, and seem to be experiencing a resurgence as people get more serious about living without sugar and generally making things less fun in pursuit of Wellness. Scientifically speaking, it appears there are three primary reasons why one would choose to do this to themselves:
- They are the smoothie-every-day-for-breakfast type and are now so accustomed to drinking their nutrients that chewing is simply out of the question.
- They like the taste…
- They want to eat as little sweet stuff as possible.
Now, I am not a perfect person. I have biases and prejudices and my first impression of this food trend was there is no way it’s A) real or B) palatable. Before I was exposed to actual recipes, here is a comprehensive list of savory “smoothies” I could come up with: mashed potato puree, tomato soup, and perhaps a guacamole-like blend of avocado that could theoretically be consumed through a straw. But then I wondered—are those not soup? What exactly is a smoothie? What are the contours of this category? Am I being fundamentally conservative in my insistence that smoothies are cold and pleasant and at least mildly sweet? Is this how I become my parents, by planting my feet firmly on one side of the ideological smoothie divide without ever experiencing the thing I have resolved to stand firmly against?
No, I decided, this is not who I am. This is not who WE ARE. Thus, I made the determination that I would open my heart to the savory smoothie before I drew any conclusions. Join me, for this is about more than just questionably healthy liquids. This is about courage, fortitude, and the search for truth.
In this very clinical trial, my methodology was as follows: I enlisted two experts to help select and taste test two savory smoothies. One of them, let’s call him Tuck, is a soup aficionado. Yes, he could wow you with a Manhattan clam chowder or a pea soup, but he was recruited specifically for his deft hand at fancy cold soups which apparently people enjoy. He can whip you up a creamy Vichyssoise or a Gazpacho and then argue passionately for why you ought to not pop it in the microwave. As savory smoothies dangerously straddle the line between beverage and a sad, frigid soup, I felt it prudent to have a soup expert on the team. The second expert I employed, let’s call him Blue, was added for two reasons: First, he was the only friend of mine besides Tuck that was willing to try my concoctions and second, he is a fundamentally open-minded chill dude who wears tiny running shorts and flip-flops everywhere and is not squeamish at all about imbibing weird texture/flavor combos.
In order to guide our investigation we had some questions:
How is a savory smoothie not just…cold soup?
Is it drinkable?
Could we make it better?
Here is a list of things that I did instead of start this experiment:
Cleaned my actual baseboards
Started biting my nails again
Emptied my cat box
Washed the dishes
Wrote this list
And then there was nothing else to do. The blender was clean, the baseboards were spotless, my nails were a disaster. It was time to make these smoothies. We selected two recipes from internet sources composed of ingredients that required the fewest possible trips to the grocery store. Up first…
Cabbage & Carrot Smoothie: A thing people actually make.
The primary ingredients in this smoothie are cabbage and carrots. There is also a tart apple and a pinch of ginger, but basically you’re putting carrots and cabbage in a blender with water and then drinking it cold. I used an excellent blender at high power for three straight minutes, and yet, when I poured everyone their servings and garnished with a piece of raw cabbage, it was still a rather textured liquid. It was the color of an unseasoned oatmeal, and it had a foreboding odor due to the ungodly quantity of cabbage.
Me: “Why is this so fibrous? I would rather just chew all these things. Just CHEW things, for the love of god!”
Tuck: “We can fix this” (He’s a virgo…)
Tuck proceeded to strain the beverage. Although I originally held that this was cheating because then it turns the whole thing into a juice which is fundamentally less repulsive, we decided that it was the only option because none of us could tell you anything about the flavor of the drink until we dealt with the texture, which both my associates and I were gagging on like it was applesauce’s evil twin.
Me: “This is what I imagine a mother bird vomits into her baby bird’s mouth.”
Tuck: “It tastes like nothing and also bad”
Consensus: This was too dense and flavorless to be a soup nor was it really a smoothie. It was just spiritually wrong. We came to the consensus that it was more like some kind of unseasoned kraut. 0/10. Abomination.
Asparagus Avocado Smoothie: Another thing people actually make.
This recipe is also exactly what it sounds like. The base liquid is green tea, and there’s a dash of salt, some citrus, and an avocado. So we were hopeful. I followed the recipe closely and again ran the blender for a long time. Right away, this one looked better than the cabbage smoothie, but would it be worth the weird smelling pee?
Me: “This is better. Smoother. Tastes like grass. Still not great.”
Blue: “I kinda like it.”
After thinking about possible improvements, the council decided that adding more spices to the drink, such as cayenne pepper, and maybe more citrus and sea salt, would significantly improve its drinkability rating. But would that put it squarely in the soup category? After deep consideration, the council came to the conclusion that this distinction comes down to attitude and intention. Do you see this thing you’re drinking as a smoothie or a soup? Would you prefer a spoon or a straw? Would you garnish with croutons or hemp seeds? How much chewing are you really willing to do? It is about the symbolism—the narrative that you attach to the liquid, not the liquid itself.
3/10. Would be a fine thing to bring to a potluck where all the guests recently had their jaws wired shut.
Turns out, the difference between smoothies and soups is mostly in your head. The one thing that I will go to my grave fighting for is that we must draw the line at chunks. It is called a smoothie and it must be fundamentally smooth. Also, perhaps just chew your cabbage yourself.
At the end of the night, I waved goodbye to my council of experts and sat down ponderously at my computer like Carrie Bradshaw, gazed out my window, and asked myself some overwhelmingly earnest rhetorical questions about what we can learn from our foray into the smoothie wilderness….
Overall, this was an exercise in tolerance, in community building, and in expanding what I thought was possible for myself. Sure, I may still believe that the savory smoothie is at best gastronomically on par with baby food, but I do think babies are great people! They have generally fine taste in things I like, such as outfits and naps. So there you have it, the final word on savory smoothies. Good luck.
Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.
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