Monday, 10 September 2012

Dear Yann Martel (1963 - ),

I'm quite emotionally attached to the bottle of orange juice in my fridge. It's just a reconstituted pulpy supermarket brand - nothing fancy or freshly squeezed - and yet it is a presence in my small urban flat. Like the open arms of a mother, it holds all the promise of nourishment, reassurance, and (because my fridge is kinda crap) warmth.

So I completely understand why, when you had to write an orangutan character to echo the role of your protagonist's mother in Life of Pi, you called it Orange Juice. (Or maybe it was the orang- thing. That might make more sense.)

Actually, you could probably get away with calling it anything at all. Since most of the book consists of a young boy's imaginative view of a traumatic situation (being lost at sea), you could call his animal friends by any damned name you wanted and it would seem plausible. A talking sea turtle named Couch Cushion? That's just Pi being imaginative. A flying gerbil named Toilet Seat? Ah, from the minds of babes.*

Search tip: if you're trying to find something as random as "flying gerbil toilet seat" on Google Images, and haven't had any luck, try the formula "[random search terms] AND "Japanese animation"". Works every time.
But Orange Juice makes sense. For an orangutan whose quiet strength and ethereal beneficence makes it a mother-figure, the orange glow of juice is symbolically apt. (Spoiler alert: OJ is also quite short-lived in the book, again, as it is in my fridge.)

Now readers might be thinking: how on earth do you take recipe inspiration from the name of a character? Don't you feel like you're eating / drinking an orangutan, or someone's mother, or both? I don't know how to answer that. Especially when the passage I'm using is this:

"She came floating on an island of bananas in a halo of light, as lovely as the Virgin Mary. The rising sun was behind her. Her flaming hair looked stunning."

When orange juice presents itself to you on a bed of bananas, there's only one thing to make: SMOOTHIES! So yeah, once we throw the orange juice in a blender, we're not really calming down these 'mutilating a living creature' associations. Sorry, Yann. 

Does it help that the smoothie is really, really good? That it tastes as sweet as Pi's first sip of fresh water after 227 days on a lifeboat? But better, because it has mint? Does the mint take away the connotations of monkey-blending?

Or am I perhaps overthinking this, and should shut up now and drink my smoothie?

Yes. Yes I should.

*Actually, my nutty paramour and I have slowly invented a whole mythology of bizarre animals. We have the Caterpillar of Cold Days, and the almighty Food Duck (with his twelve ducklings on a lake of orange sauce), and when we're at work, the Spreadsheet Tortoise. But it's maybe not so cute when 30-year-olds come up with this stuff...

Mutilated Orange-utan Pineapple Smoothie

Serves 2

1C orange juice
1C frozen pineapple - from fresh, people, not tinned^
1/2 frozen banana
Handful of mint leaves

Throw everything into a blender. Blend. Drink. Don't really need a recipe for that. 

^If you use tinned pineapple in this, I will know. I won't say anything, but you'll wake up one morning next to a head of shredded pineapple leaves.


  1. I will have to try this smoothie recipe. I recently got a new blender and have been going smoothie-crazy!

  2. thanks for sharing.