On the morning of July 4, my husband and I took our son to Kenai to see the American Legion train engine before the parade. It was hours before the start, but people were already lining the streets with their folding chairs and coolers, decked out in glitter and ribbons and smiles. My son was much more interested in the classic cars than he was in the train (just like my dad), so we walked down the sidewalk to count the tires and admire all the custom paint and polished chrome.
As we passed groups gathered around each shining car, I overheard snippets of conversations, bits of stories of summers past and of old friends, some punchlines and snickers and inside jokes. The atmosphere was nostalgic and somewhat bittersweet, as it often is for events that commemorate the past. Our world is constantly changing, and nothing ever stays the same, so we cling to our traditions and memories to manufacture some permanence in our impermanent lives.
I got my very first job in the summer right after high school at the orange Julius stand in the Northway Mall in Anchorage. I had never heard of them before I worked there, but for some of us those frothy concoctions are an icon of summertime and nostalgic Americana, so they make the perfect treat for a sunny Fourth of July.
The original drink contained raw egg whites, which we now know are not safe to eat, so my version uses sweetened condensed milk instead. Traditionalists will say that the egg whites are irreplaceable. And to a certain degree they are correct, because my version doesn’t taste or feel exactly like the original, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious, and now it certainly won’t make anyone sick, so I consider it an improvement.
6 ounces (or ½ a container) frozen orange juice concentrate
½ cup milk
1 cup cold water
¼ cup sweetened condensed milk
2 cups ice
Makes 2 large drinks (around 12 ounces)
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for 10 seconds or until smooth.
Garnish with an orange wedge and drink it before it melts. A frozen glass will help to keep your drink icy.
Try adding ½ a frozen banana, or ½ cup frozen mango, or a handful of frozen strawberries to make new flavors. Or you could try using different frozen juice concentrates (POG juice is an excellent choice) to make as many different variations as you can dream up. Over the year or so I worked there, I made up about a thousand different drinks and was rarely disappointed; however, I will suggest not trying pineapple and blackberry because, trust me, it was awful.
An orange Julius is nostalgic for me because it reminds me of all the excitement and trepidation that came with my first weeks and months out of the nest; the thrill and pride and terror at the reality of my situation and the consequences of my own independence. I have come a long way from the timid girl in the smoothie shop in the mall, and I still have a long way to go, changing for the better all the time, just as our great country does.
Tressa Dale is a U.S. Navy veteran and culinary and pastry school graduate from Anchorage. She currently lives in Nikiski with her husband, 1-year-old son and two black cats.