Saturday, September 5, 2009

On "Squeezed" and Why Doesn't Anyone Want to Care About How Crappy Their Orange Juice is,

I got on this food kick, and wound up gravitating to Alissa Hamilton's Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Your Orange Juice. What with our event for The Foie Gras Wars, and the opening of Food Inc., it seemed like interesting. Plus I liked the jacket.

I've been fascinated by the orange juice business for a long time. When I was young, my dad had a juicer and squeezed his own. He pooh-poohed canned concentrate, and later, the reconstitututed Minute Maid.

But Tropicana made a believer out of him, and he put away his juicer. Fresh squeezed from from your grocer's cooler. Imagine that! Tropicana made a believer out of much of America, and their "Not from Concentrate" sales handle, despite clunky and negative, turned out to be a big hit.

Now the cola wars are played out on the refrigerator aisle, with Minute Maid (and their NFC brand Simply Fresh) battling Tropicana for supremacy. But there's a darker side to this picture, and it plays out in the oj hearings of the 1960's, which Hamilton had access to in order to write Squeezed.

And if you believe in truth in labeling, you will be surprised at what is going on with your almost-fresh-squeezed (come on, you believed it) product. The stuff is so denatured that they have to add back flavor packs to the stuff to get it to taste like oranges. And this seems minor but labeling is labeling, did you know that 100% orange juice can contain up to 10% tangerine juice?

Surprisingly, this book has been a hard sell. There's been some pickup in blogs, and a few stray reviews, but no momentum. Here's a Q&A from the Boston Globe, only it came out three months before the book was released.

And here's a nice review in Tree Hugger. It's my suspicion that the author being Canadian has something to do with the lack of attention. Would you have ignored Eric Schlosser if he were Canadian? Note that Harper is repackaging Fast Food Nation as a nice little rack-sized edition for $10, available early November. I wounder what book would like great next to it on a display?
I honestly think part of the issue is that the author is Canadian. She certainly got more attention in her homeland. And there might be some reticence on media to question a food product that ranks with apple pie on the patriotism scake. But think of it this way, according to Squeezed, most of the juice is going to be from Brazil anyway, even the fresh squeezed variety. How can they do that? Read the book to find out.

And where the heck is Eric Schlosser's new book on the prison system anyway?

1 comment:

Bob Root said...


The book to put next to "Squeezed" might well be the classic "Oranges" by John McPhee. It first came out in 1967, but isn't all of McPhee still available? At any rate, for that was then, this is now comparison, it's perfect. Plus McPhee is always a good read, even if his book is forty years old and an historical artifact.