Of all that I saw after two weeks traveling in France, I was most impressed by their orange juice contraptions. Yes, this seems a ludicrous claim with all the wonders that the country has to offer, but alas it is true. Though I enjoy good orange juice, I am not a fanatic by any means, and certainly never reach for it as an on the go option here in the U.S. This is only because, I have now learned, of the poor quality orange juice that is offered in the states. I’m sure there is superb fresh orange juice at specialty food stores that would offer the same excellence as that of the french orange juice. But that’s just it, one doesn’t need to seek out a speciality store for fresh orange juice in France and in other grocery stores across Europe.
The accessibility and convenience of a vitamin c packed beverage is thanks to massive self serving juice presses. I first encountered one of these machines at a grocery store in Paris. Being a skeptic, I assumed it was an overpriced scam. It wasn’t until I saw a fast moving line of local parisians filling miniature bottles the next day that I realized it was a must try. Overpriced scam it is not. For only 3 euros, you can a container the size of a large gatorade bottle, while the miniature size cost only a euro. The top of the machine is a wire bowl that holds the oranges, which funnels them down into the press, which has a clear window so that you can watch the squeezing process. Quickly, the oranges drop down onto a blade where they are split, each half falling to either side of the blade to be squeezed simmultaneosly by compressors, as the liquid fills your container of choice. It’s as easy as using a water bubbler, though far more exciting. Once I was hooked, I noticed these juice presses in every grocery store, convenient store, and even souvenir shop that I passed.
When leaving the city, I said my goodbyes to the accessible fresh orange juice, assuming it was metropolis characteristic, like bagels are to New York City. I was wrong again. In the rural countryside, north east of Marseille, we stopped for gas in a small village. I ventured inside the store looking for a car snack. I’ve learned to compromise taste and freshness when hungry at a gas station, as the selection, in my experience, is usually far from tasty or fresh. To my delight, just next to the register was the beloved orange juice press, the top bowl overflowing with oranges.
It is a simple thing: providing accessible fresh orange juice at a reasonable price, yet to me, it symbolizes so much more. Having fresh orange juice, free of sugar and other unnecessary ingredients, as the standard, is a node to the tradition of healthy, quality, great tasting food that defines french culture.
A piece of advice for anyone traveling to France and Europe in general in the future: near or far, start every morning with a walk to your nearest establishment, for a bottle of orange juice.