Squeezed: What You Don't Know (A must read book review)
Orange juice is healthy and wholesome. We drink it because it's fresh, full of Vitamin C and made from the natural fruit of orange trees. Right? Not hardly, says Alissa Hamilton in this darkly absorbing history of the Florida orange juice industry. Even if the carton says "not from concentrate," what you drink when you pour a glass of conventional, pre-squeezed orange juice is wholly industrialized, more a product of laboratory "food science" than of those sunshine-nourished orange groves Bing Crosby and Anita Bryant once pitched.
Hamilton set out to chronicle the orange juice industry's influence on the biodiversity of the sweet orange. When she and Dixi, her Jack Russell terrier-Chihuahua mix, drove to Lakeland, Florida, for four months at Florida Southern College, she hit the historian's mother-lode in the Thomas B. Mack Citrus Archives, presided over by Professor Mack himself, a nonagenarian who had studied the citrus industry for more than half a century "collecting weird and wonderful memorabilia along the way."
Documents Hamilton stumbled across in her "unmethodical" search of the archives--"the only type possible in the disarray," she comments in a wry aside--changed the direction of her research and painted a damming picture of the "wholesome" citrus industry and its "tree-fresh" product. Her discoveries--and the loss of the archives after Professor Mack died--have all the ingredients of a gripping detective story. Unfortunately, this thoroughly researched book is uneven, with long stretches that read more like a dissertation than a popular book.
Close to three quarters of U.S. households buy orange juice. Its popularity crosses class, cultural, racial, and regional divides. Why do so many of us drink orange juice? How did it turn from a luxury into a staple in just a few years? More important, how is it that we don’t know the real reasons behind OJ’s popularity or understand the processes by which the juice is produced?
In this enlightening book, Alissa Hamilton explores the hidden history of orange juice. She looks at the early forces that propelled orange juice to prominence, including a surplus of oranges that plagued Florida during most of the twentieth century and the army’s need to provide vitamin C to troops overseas during World War II. She tells the stories of the FDA’s decision in the early 1960s to standardize orange juice, and the juice equivalent of the cola wars that followed between Coca-Cola (which owns Minute Maid) and Pepsi (which owns Tropicana). Of particular interest to OJ drinkers will be the revelation that most orange juice comes from Brazil, not Florida, and that even “not from concentrate” orange juice is heated, stripped of flavor, stored for up to a year, and then re-flavored before it is packaged and sold. The book concludes with a thought-provoking discussion of why consumers have the right and need to know how their food is produced.
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