melted_snowball: (food)
[personal profile] melted_snowball
Alissa Hamilton's Squeezed is a book about processed orange juice.

What's to know? Orange juice, after all, is "100% orange, pure and natural".

Actually, much of what's to know is available right on Tropicana's website, which kind of blunts the claim of the book that they're trying to lie to you.

Anyhow, what is to know? Well, both pasteurized orange juice and concentrated orange juice, if you created them in the obvious ways, would taste awful. So in both cases, what happens is that a quantity of fresh juice or of orange oil is added to them; both concentration and pasteurization destroy these flavour components.

Also, ready-to-serve "not from concentrate" brands turn out to be pasteurized twice: once when they're juiced and placed into huge chilled OJ tanks, and once when they're to be put in cartons or bottles. This means that the "less processed" image of this kind of OJ is totally bullshit. Once upon a time, it was actually a little better: they were frozen straight after being juiced, and then pasteurized right before being bottled.

Another funny situation is that the "Florida" image that Tropicana and Minute Maid cultivate is increasingly bullshit: the actual juice processing plants, including those in Florida, are owned by Brazilian companies these days, while Tropicana and Minute Maid are largely marketing companies. (This is not, one notes, much different from the state of affairs for pet foods; after the melamine-in-pet-food scandal a couple years ago, one of the surprising facts is just how many different pet food companies Menu Foods made pet food for.) Anyhow, most American juice manufacturers are starting to use Brazilian concentrate (or pasteurized not-concentrate) in their production of OJ. They don't have to actually document the quantity of this in their label; they can just say, "from the US, Brazil and South Africa" or whatever.

All of this is vaguely interesting, but the book enters some weird rhetorical flights of absurdity, which gets tiring. Not just the one I posted about a few days ago, but she also waxes at length about how much consumers want more of a connection to all of the steps in their food's processing. I don't really think that's so; probably some do, but others still enjoy their Twinkies, thanksverymuch.

The book ends with a big jeremiad about how awful it is that citrus farming in Florida is losing out to the state being a giant condo community for retirees, and how terrible foreign (Brazilian, in this case) food is for US society.

This really amuses me, because of course, Floridians, until the Brazilians started selling more, used to supply the world with lots of its OJ. So, um, is international trade in foodstuffs only a good thing when it's exported, not imported? Oh, okay. Good to know.

Really, orange juice, like any other commodity is manufactured and standardized. We shouldn't be surprised that international trading partners enter into the process of producing it, and that as a consequence of that, it becomes less possible for people in the First World to make a living producing it. In fact, we should be surprised if that didn't happen.

A couple of other thoughts about OJ. First, I know people who prefer reconstituted OJ or pasteurized OJ to fresh-squeezed. I'm pretty sure my mom does, in particular. Do you?

And second, it does interest me that juice oranges are worth something like $3/bushel to growers. I don't want to think about how much more I pay for them when I buy them here and juice them in my food processor.

Oh, and it should be clear, but don't waste your time reading this book. This could have been an okay Harper's article of 5 or 10 pages, but 200 is way, way too much.

Date: 2009-07-29 02:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
They manipulate the colour by adding tangerine juice. :-)

Date: 2009-07-29 02:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Okay, I can live with tangerine juice. At least it's a fruit. The only thing I can think of that would really make the juice orange would be carrots, and for some inexplicable reason the idea of carrots in any form less solid than "raw and crunchy" give me the heebie-jeebies.

Now I'm all curious about what they do to soy milk, though...I drink a lot of that. I am one of those weird vegan hippie types who really DOES want to know what happened to food before I decide to put it in my body.

Date: 2009-07-29 03:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, food politics! The unfortunate thing about how this works, of course, is that it's nearly impossible to actually get the straight story about what goes on, because everyone is extremely biased about food production. Being involved in the business of food production is inescapable, because everyone is going to eat at some point. (Except, perhaps, breatharians (

I am always amused by labeling products "natural" or "organic". If it's unnatural and inorganic, it probably isn't edible!

Date: 2009-07-29 07:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That website is run by Marion Nestle, who's pretty cool. You might enjoy her books.

"Organic" got given a definition; regardless of whether it made sense for that to be the word, we have our hippie ancestors to thank for it. "Natural", on the other hand, has two meanings: for flavours it means, "produced in archaic fashion", while for anything else, well, actually it has no meaning at all.

Date: 2009-07-29 07:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You may be interested in the Illinois prisoner soy diet that's currently getting a lot of links.

I bought a machine to make soy and nut milks at home this winter. There are strong differences between homemade and commercial products, most notably for me in terms of texture: the commercial beverages have a thicker, heavier mouthfeel.

Date: 2009-07-29 07:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am quite troubled by that article. Then again, I am also quite troubled by other things I saw on that site that were not supposed to have been troubling.

Date: 2009-07-29 08:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am similarly troubled by that article. I've been vegan for nearly 7 years, and the idea of eating a diet so reliant on soy is...well, that's disgusting, I'd be dead in a year if I did that, maybe sooner. But it also gives the idea that soy = bad, and soy is not inherently bad for you. I do eat a fair bit of it...I just don't base my whole diet around it. If I had been accustomed to eating meat 2-3 meals a day, and suddenly started just replacing it with soy...I mean, that's horrifying, no way, ugh! I eat soy several times a week, sure. I also eat a lot of vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, fruit...and very little processed food at all.

I'm interested to hear what else on that site you found troubling.

Date: 2009-07-29 08:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow, homemade soy and nut milks sounds amazing! How is that going for you? What kind of machine did you get?

Date: 2009-07-29 09:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
After reading several reviews, I settled on the top of the line SoyQuick. It comes with a recipe book. I was disappointed in the promises made of mung bean milk but generally pleased.

Once I adjusted to the flavour and texture, it's working well for soy and almond milk as well as tofu. It is a few minutes of work to make a batch of milk, closer to half an hour for tofu. By not buying commercial soy and almond milk or tofu, I've probably saved the cost of the machine over the past half year.


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