Welcome to Short Order, Tasting Table's column for the next generation of adventurous food lovers.
A couple of weeks ago, I was flipping through Instagram, and amid photos of perfect layer cakes and strangers' cute kids, I caught sight of a post for a daily "cleanse" that lets you keep enjoying everything beautiful in life, like dessert and snacks.
The Dirty Lemon cleanse had me at the caption's pizza emoji: After I double-tapped that 'gram, I switched to a web browser, and within all of 12 minutes, I'd ordered my first case of six bottles of the detox drink for the bargain price of $65. A quick text exchange with a semiautomated response was all it took to get the magical unicorn of a cleanse on its way to my doorstep (er, New York City apartment step).
So what exactly is Dirty Lemon? Let's start with the ingredients: There's water (specifically reverse osmosis filtered, to be clear), lemon juice (raw, cold-pressed; because I'll be damned if anyone adds heat to my lemon juice), dandelion root extract (to help aid digestion), ginger root (also digestion) extract and activated charcoal.
Yep, that's right. The cleanse contains activated charcoal, the poison control/drug overdose treatment that makes you vomit your brains out. Which is explicitly not the game plan here. The idea is that the cleanse helps alkalize your body, using activated charcoal to soak up the tiny toxins that are slowly eating us alive. Or something. But what exactly are toxins anyway? It's one of those words you hear, like innovation or development, then nod your head, furrow your brow and say, "Ah, yes." I like to think my liver does a solid job in its role as human's internal trash can. Was Dirty Lemon like a liver booster pack? I sure didn't know, but that didn't stop me from embarking on a one-week journey with the strange black citrusy beverage.
The site encourages you to drink one 16-ounce bottle a day, whenever you choose. But since the FAQs suggest drinking it before bed, I figured I'd follow the rules and break open the bottle only after my nightly bowl of cereal (yeah, I eat cereal for dinner; deal with it). The bottle reads, Our formula will help to calm the stomach, flush out the kidneys and trap impurities before they can be absorbed by the body. The idea is that when you're in a full state, all your toxins are hanging out, just ready to be sponged up. Granted, I topped my bottle off with diet ginger ale 85 percent of the time, so the drink's healing powers and my aspartame-lined stomach might've canceled each other out. But since both are made with real ginger and I was putting trust in an ingredient that sounds like it'd just walked off the set of Transformers 7, I didn't take issue. Besides, the last time I'd eaten any type of charcoal was in ice cream, which tells you all you need to know about my food preferences.
I know what you're probably wondering: How did it taste? I'm not one to force down something gross, even in the name of science, so this factor was important. Even without the ginger ale, Dirty Lemon is something I'd voluntarily drink. It mostly just tastes like lemon juice, watered down enough so that pucker face doesn't happen should it be downed in public.
And as for whether it works, I was mildly gassy the first couple of days (thanks to that lovely activated charcoal). But although you may blame it on successful marketing (I turn to putty in the face of commercialism), I did feel pretty great upon waking up in the morning. Yea!, I'd think, I did wake up like this, as I'd post a humble-brag selfie of my bright-eyed look to my Snapchat story. Especially during and after the holidays, I'd gotten used to feeling slow in the morning, hungover on sugar and craving no less than four muffins to ease the pain of waking up. But now—at the risk of turning myself into a yogurt commercial—I found myself instead craving protein-packed smoothies to chase a voluntary morning jog along the Hudson. I had energy, which, until then, I realized I wasn't quite sure what that'd even feel like, and was in turn doing good things for my positivity and outlook on life and the universe.
Truth be told, I haven't magically turned into Beyoncé, but maybe that happens with the second shipment. I'm still not sure what toxins are or how to tell how efficiently they're getting kicked out of my body. But even if the methods are vague and there's no visible proof, the general idea of this whole thing is something I can get behind. If life is about balance, I'd rather match the chocolate in my left hand with an innocuous, pleasant-tasting beverage in my right than have two empty hands.
A closing confession: One night I added a three-second pour of rum to my glass. Say what you want about the hypothetical toxins lurking in a shot of alcohol, but I maintain that I still sparkled when I woke up—if not even more.
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