I was reading a blog post this morning entitled the apple carrot juice recipe on Foodbuzz by miss v’s vegan cookbook where she used some granny smith apples and carrots to create a fresh juice and immediately I was reminded of my days with part-time work as a cook and server at Nature’s Way natural food restaurant.
The restaurant and associated store which was located in the 5900 block of Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans went shuttered many moons ago and has since been replaced by a Mexican restaurant (Taqueria Corona), but the memories of my early New Orleans’ natural food restaurant days came alive again after reading about Miss V’s “the juice” blog post this morning.
At the behest of my friend Brad Ott I started working at Nature’s Way about 20 hours a week during the evening shift and only after I clocked out at the Hyatt Regency Hotel serving my culinary apprenticeship duties. I would put in my 8 hour shift at the hotel, hurry and change clothes in the locker room and peddle on over to the Way, which took about 35 minutes from downtown to uptown. I was supposed to arrive at 3:00 PM but the manager cut me some slack being 30 to 35 minutes late every day. Working on a paupers pay I did not own a powered vehicle as bicycling was my only transportation method. Believe it or not, there was a Green Movement back then, but I was not considered green. Go figure how times have changed, but that is another subject for another post. Making $4.25 an hour at the Hyatt and $3.75 an hour at the Way in 1984 was not the best money then, but I did not have big bills to pay either. It was tough getting started in the restaurant biz and taking a cut in pay as I had worked several previous summers in high school for a tree service company making $5.75 an hour. I was committed to making the sacrifices to learn a new trade, and it eventually paid off in dividends as I progressed in the restaurant industry.
So on to my inspiration for this post! Carrot juice! Yes, carrot juice was made fresh each and every day at the Way. A 50 lb. sack of carrots were juiced early each morning and stored in glass gallon jugs, and this was pure unfiltered carrot juice which would sell out at least every other day before I arrived for the evening shift. When I did get to have a taste of this delicate fresh juice it was heavenly. Today the only carrot juice I can find is in 1/2 gallons and produced in some far away factory. It takes a lot of carrots to make a gallon of carrot juice I have found, and I really appreciate being able to find fresh carrot juice.
Nature’s Way menu consisted of many fresh salads and vegan sandwiches and served only tuna and chicken as available meat proteins. Tofu was also available on the menu in limited amounts, but they made all their own dressings including their own tahini dressing. Lots of alfalfa sprouts were used in just about every dish, as it was still in the sprout head period. One of the popular warm dishes was Steamed Vegetables with Brown Rice. It was a combination of fresh carrots, broccoli and cauliflower steamed with a little turmeric spice on top and then served over a bed of fresh cooked brown rice. There was the option of having shredded white cheddar cheese on top of that too, which made a great meal when melted over the vegetables. This huge platter would fill you up too!
Of course the fresh made smoothies were to die for, they were so easy to make, very healthy and delicious, and yet so simple too! There were no protein powders or bulk up mixes back then, just plain and simple smoothies with fresh fruit, honey, ice and water. That was it! Now some folks would have nutritional yeast added if they wanted, but that was an extra charge up, maybe .50 cents. Some of the most popular smoothies were banana, strawberry, melon, and sometimes fig.
The typical smoothie recipe consisted of 1 cup of fruit, 1 glass (16 oz) full of ice, 2 Tbsp honey, and 1/2 cup water. Put all ingredients in the blender and buzz until smooth, pour out and add the straw and serve at once.
I can also remember serving some of the local music industry folks such as the likes of the Neville Brothers and the lead guitarist for Marcia Ball too would frequent the Way, it was a fun time and a place that I continue to cherish along the journey of my restaurant experience archives.