I figure the loads of Chinese delivery and bags of frozen fruit are exactly balancing out and I’m actually eating pretty well. I can think of takeout from mom-and-pop establishments as an honorable economic duty, and I like the “berry medley” in the freezer aisle because anything that doesn’t stay good for more than a few days seems irrelevant right now. With a personal blender I found half off this winter, I’ve ritualized consuming a smoothie a day.
At first, I was really bad at getting the ratio right so that everything blends in satisfying spirals. My first few smoothies weren’t worth the effort. I was fighting goop stuck above the blades and didn’t know what to add without ruining it. It can be hard to know what’s working and what isn’t.
I now know: scoop frozen fruit to the brim and fill in the cracks with the milk and juice. See it swirl to pink. Liquid gives the blades purchase. I now know: load the blender the night before and thaw the fruit in the fridge.
I used to prep granola and yogurt in a jar each night the same way, saving maybe seconds on my way out the door. I’d eat it at my desk, three feet from my coworker Nate, who did the same. We joked about how yogurt feels like a healthy food, but it really isn’t—lots of sugar. It can be embarrassingly hard to know what’s good for you. Now I’m mixing my yogurt stash into the smoothies and sipping at my bedroom desk, Slacking coworkers about clarifications and tasks, trying to stay on the same page.
On the weekend, my mom hands me a jug of V8 through their cracked porch door, wrapped in two plastic bags. My parents were in Washington, D.C. this spring while my dad led Calvin’s semester abroad. They obviously came back early, and the juice was still in their fridge. In my smoothie experiments, it’s another ingredient that seems healthy, but tastes like candy.
My parents and I have met up for walks at a distance, but I haven’t hugged them since January. Still, we didn’t expect to see each other until May, so it’s hard to know how distant to feel. I hope we stay as careful as we are affectionate.
Some week, I ran out of fruit, oat milk, and yogurt all at the same time. I asked my coworkers over a video call “happy hour” about the ethics of using Instacart, and Council decided that though I’m ordering a servant from my ivory tower, a body has to be in the store, and it may as well be someone who’s already going and makes a profit. So I put the order in on Sunday and summoned Aubrie. Deliveries were backed up until Wednesday night, so I couldn’t make my smoothies for three days. Tough shit.
Now I’m using ingredients that Aubrie substituted when my particular list items weren’t available: blackberries, blueberries, Lactaid, Greek yogurt, and a splash of peach-mango juice. It tastes great all the same—it feels consistent even when every part’s different.
Ironically, in a time where no one can be together, I only want more insulation, more ritual. I want to be left alone. I’m angry that everybody doesn’t exactly agree with me about how to behave. I’m angry about big sociological words like American “individualism” or “exceptionalism” that make the uninspiring, invisible, collective, life-saving action of shutting up and shutting in unfathomable.
I’m angry at every heroic and heartwarming anecdote: I’m angry that every charity is a new testament to the failures of a society and a state to care for its people. I’m angry that saying “Don’t tell me what to do” is more American than saying “Tell me how to help.”
But of course I’m not really angry: I’m upset, bothered, or some sheltered feeling near angry. So I feel my unearned safety: that I’ve only gotten close to feeling angry, for the first time, in a way that those hurt first could feel angry all the time.
But now I’m joking with friends in Connecticut over Zoom about what differentiates a smoothie from, say, a juice or a milkshake. We said we wouldn’t spiral about the news. Or the election. And so we’re not catching up or checking in but just hanging out—defending our favorite fruits. A year ago I’d visited them for no reason, flying on my own for the first time, walking around New York City for hours, proving to myself that relationships at a distance can be just as real. I’m glad. Now, my next door neighbors are as far away as the Northeast.
I’m running out of smoothie stuff again. This morning, I stole a splash of my housemate’s orange juice and it wasn’t a tasty choice. Every smoothie is both a consistent ritual and an experiment with what’s available, right now. It slowly gets easier to know what’s good.