Food Renegade: The Secret Ingredient In Your Orange Juice


Kristen from Food Renegade does some top-notch research on that carton of “100% Orange Juice”  that’s “not from concentrate” sitting in your refrigerator.  The results are shocking, but not surprising:

When you make orange juice at home, each batch tastes a little different depending on the oranges you made it from.

Haven’t you ever wondered why every glass of Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice tastes the same, no matter where in the world you buy it or what time of year you’re drinking it in? Or maybe your brand of choice is Minute Maid or Simply Orange or Florida’s Natural. Either way, I can ask the same question. Why is the taste and flavor so consistent? Why is it that the Minute Maid never tastes like the Tropicana, but always tastes like its own unique beverage?

The reason your store bought orange juice is so consistently flavorful has more to do with chemistry than nature.

Here’s the skinny:

After the oranges are squeezed, the juice is stored in giant holding tanks and, critically, the oxygen is removed from them. That essentially allows the liquid to keep (for up to a year) without spoiling– but that liquid that we think of as orange juice tastes nothing like the Tropicana OJ that comes out of the carton.

In fact, it’s quite flavorless. So, the industry uses “flavor packs” to re-flavor the de-oxygenated orange juice.  When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature.

These flavor packs are simply by-products that originate in oranges, so they are considered an “ingredient,” even though they are chemically altered.  What’s the point of drinking juice that is only palatable if it needs to be chemically altered?  Okay, it’s convenient, it’s consistent, and it tastes good.

I’ve never been a fruit juice drinker, and here’s why:  Fruit juice is high in sugar, devoid of healthy fiber, and high-priced relative to fruit.  I think of fruit juice as a turbo-charged glucose and fructose injection, albeit with most of the vitamins left intact.

Drinking juice (or other sugar-loaded processed drinks) delivers sugar directly to the blood stream, which causes inflammation in our body’s cells, resulting in what scientists believe accelerates the aging process.  Recent evidence links these sugars with several chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension, and many common cancers among them.

How many oranges (and the associated sugar content) are there in one glass of orange juice?  Three to four.  At 23 grams of sugar per orange (and 92 calories), one glass of juice has 69 more grams of sugar and 276 more calories than merely eating one juicy, satisfying orange.

Is drinking Tropicana or other processed orange juice that bad for you?  Maybe not.  But I contend that eating the whole fruit can slow down the intake of sugars into the blood stream because of the added fiber.  Not only is eating the whole fruit better for you from a health perspective, but more enjoyable as well!


Further Reading:


Branding Medici-Style

Illustration by Drew Heffron courtesy Bloomberg


Today’s brand-building through corporate-named stadiums and celebrity endorsements is nothing new.  In fact, such marketing can be traced back to the Italian Renaissance.  Virginia Postrel pens a fascinating article for Bloomberg that describes how “Renaissance art is full of status signals and calculated image-building — once-obvious messages that today’s tourists never notice.”

Plus this:

Brand-building through misleading images wasn’t invented on Madison Avenue or Hollywood. Many of Florence’s Renaissance treasures are monuments to exaggeration for the purposes of self-promotion. The medium may have changed, but the motives haven’t.

The Renaissance patrons who paid for all those frescoes, paintings, altar pieces and sculptures weren’t generally funding beauty for its own sake. They were buying status — building their brands, we’d say today. Their patronage showed off their wealth and piety and, in many cases, advertised their supposed links to the prestigious and powerful. In the process, these patrons often shaded the truth, leaving out unflattering facts and suggesting associations they didn’t in fact have.

I’ll never view Renaissance art in the same way again.

Read the whole thing.



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On Sunday my Son Sold his Pig

My son woke up every morning and fed his pigs, for six months. And after three months, he walked with the pigs, around in a circle, twice a day, to train the pig for the show. . .

All those unexpected obstacles did not faze my son. He stuck to what we practiced and did well at that. We showed his pigs three more times. Each time he got a little more confident. And I felt like my son was growing up, right in front of me. There is so much you can do to prepare for the world, but really, you grow only as you succeed or fail. You learn so much about yourself in that moment. . .

The guy who bought the pig is a guy who buys a lot of cattle from the Farmer. The guy who bought the pig is a farmer himself. He’ll eat the pork, for sure, but I’m sure he bought the pig because he believes in 4H and the county fair and what it teaches kids. And he believes we are part of the community, too: me and my sons and the Farmer.

We had 4H in Nebraska when I was a kid and I’m glad to hear it still plays a positive role not only in young people’s lives, but of entire communities.  Funny how sometimes we don’t appreciate things like 4H until we grow older.

Read the whole thing.


Coming This Fall: “The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine”

Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s latest book, The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine, is scheduled to be published by Little, Brown this fall.  The book picks up where What to Drink with What You Eat left off in exploring wine as the ideal complement to food, promising readers that if they love food, they know flavor — and can master wine.

Karen and Andrew

Andrew and Karen were frequent guests at Bellavitae, and I always loved seeing them.  Their books are renowned in the hospitality industry, but more importantly, revered by professional chefs and sommeliers alike.

But to me, this book’s most important contribution — like that of What to Drink with What You Eat — is sharing the couple’s continuing journey of demystifying wine.  Andrew and Karen strike an intelligent, yet down-to-earth approach to wine drinking, with an emphasis on flavor.

Food is enhanced with wine and vice versa.  And an optimal pairing of food and wine creates an experience that is nothing short of magical.  This book will guide any palate toward heaven on earth.

I have always been fascinated by terroir and its influence on how things taste.  Its greatest expression, in my opinion, is through cheese and wine.  Why?  Because both are aged, thus the flavors have intensified, transporting the taster to that area of the world where the unique elements — soil, weather, altitude, etc. — converge to create flavors like nowhere else on earth.

I’m looking forward to reading The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine and expect it will occupy a prominent place next to other important books of reference by these two influential writers.

If you pre-order, you can receive 34% off the cover price by clicking here.  Oh, and it will also be available for Kindle at a 43% discount.  It’s what I plan to do, and hope to some day get the book autographed — it’s been way too long since I’ve seen Andrew and Karen.




Further Reading:



San Marzano Tomatoes: Are you Getting the Real Deal?

From GustiBlog:

First thing Edoardo [President of the San Marzano Consortium] said was: maximum 1% of tomatoes in America sold as San Marzano are real San Marzano. Then, when I told him I would put it in writing, he said, OK, let’s say 5%, to be on the safe side. It is still huge! Shocking! Absolutely SHOCKING!!! It means that at least 95% of the tomatoes that you find in the supermarkets and that make a reference to San Marzano on their label, are not San Marzano; that you are paying a mark up for a fake product. It does not mean the product is not good; it means that the product is NOT San Marzano and should not be promoted as such.

Read the whole thing.


Plus this from Jason L. Morrow:

If you do not see the prominently displayed DOP label, you are not getting certified San Marzanos. This is true even if there is “Italian” written on the can, and you see words like: “San Marzano Region,” – “San Marzano Type,” – “San Marzano Style” – “Imported Italian San Marzanos” = all of which are true. They could have been grown in the Campania region, or even in the DOP designated origins (dell’Agro Solerno-Nocerino region – see Map), however, that still doesn’t make them DOP certified.

 And there is nothing wrong with being non-certified, if that’s what the consumer wants. San Marzano tomato “purists” won’t settle for anything that is not DOP certified and it’s all a matter of personal taste.

 [We are neutral on the matter and just try to present the information as balanced as we can. Personally, I would prefer them from my own garden].

 Regardless, buyers need to be aware of the language that is used as it can be a little misleading, even if what they have labeled is true. Other verbiage and adjectives used to label canned San Marzano tomatoes includes: Organic, Whole Peeled, Peeled Tomatoes, Product of Italy, Italian Style, All Natural Italian Style, and Prodotto in Italia to name most of them.


How do you know if you’re getting the real deal?  The only way to know for certain is to look for the DOP label.  Yes, the certification process adds a premium to any Italian product, but perhaps it’s a small price in order to guarantee the quality you’re looking for.  It’s also wise to purchase through reliable importers like Gustiamo.  I always do.

Click on the links below for more information.  As we say in America: “Buyer Beware.”


Further Reading:


California Beef Council: Hiding Where Your Steak Comes From?

Fifth generation rancher and blogger Megan Brown found herself in the midst of a public relations kerfuffle after posting an informative article last week.  Megan has a terrific writing style:  frank, amusing, informative.  I’ve enjoyed reading her posts for some time.  As Megan writes:

I feel like most of us are so far removed from our ag roots, and that makes me sad. I hope to offer a glimpse of what less than 2% of our population does for a living. Ag is not pretty. It is not easy. Agriculture – is dirty, hot, cold, bloody, messy, hard – I have no wish to sugar coat it for my readers. I want you to know what it is really like, I want to provide transparency.

Apparently the California Beef Council doesn’t like the transparency part, mainly for Megan’s photo essay of a recent beef slaughter on her farm. She was told that her pictures were too graphic for consumers to deal with.

The council’s PR person told her:

My concern is that pictures like the ones posted would turn people away from eating beef or meat in general. Yes, consumers are too far removed from agriculture and our practices, and it’s our duty to try to connect the consumer to modern production. However, I do think there may be a better way to convey to consumers how on-farm slaughter occurs and a better explanation of custom slaughter versus federally inspected slaughter facilities, etc.

The pictures are not only graphic to a consumer, but they also don’t explain the science-based practices and regulations that the industry follows — and the millions of dollars we spend each year to produce safe beef. All of these messages have proven to resonate very well with consumers.

I’m just concerned about the message consumers will get from the pictures. As an industry representative, I have to be prepared for any possible feedback from consumers, media or other beef producers that might read the blog.

Good Lord, meat comes from dead animals?

Agricultural journalist and rancher Andy Vance weighs in:

Are we so battle-scarred as an industry that we can no longer admit what it is we actually do for a living? When industry professionals are cautioned not to use terms like “slaughter” and a farmer can’t share pictures of the process with the consuming public, we have a bigger problem.

We produce meat for a living. It is a lifestyle, and it is a business. Let’s call it what it is and be proud to do so.

A former classmate of mine and Über-blogger Dan from Casual Kitchen wrote in Megan’s comment section:

It *is* an interesting post and there should be no controversy. As Tovar says, heaven forbid we figure out that meat comes from animals. The California Beef Council blew it, and their actions here make them look defensive, as if they’ve got something to hide. Guys, time to grow up, okay?

It’s interesting to point out that Oprah Winfrey’s mega audience applauds agricultural transparency.  Guest Michael Pollan was on her show last February titled “Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?” and said this:

It’s all opaque. You go to the grocery store and the meat doesn’t even have bones anymore. It’s just shrink-wrapped protoplasm, and kids don’t even know that it comes from an animal and that the animal had to be killed in order to put it on your plate.

He went on to say that one should know how meat is produced.  So to get the inside scoop, Oprah sent Lisa Ling to Colorado, where Cargill — the biggest producer of ground beef in the world — gave her a rare inside look at a slaughterhouse to see just how meat is processed.

Most interesting are the video’s comments (491 of them so far), which clearly illustrate how the majority of Oprah’s audience did not “turn away from eating beef or meat in general” — about which the California Beef Council appears to be overwrought.


Further Reading:



Europe’s Debt Crisis Arrives in Italy

Soeren Kern:  Will Italy become the next European country to need help managing its debts?  “There is no quick fix for the two most immediate problems ailing Italy: the country’s towering national debt and extremely poor prospects for economic growth.”

Plus this:

Italy is the seventh-largest economy in the world and the third-largest economy in the euro zone (the group of countries which use the euro as their common currency). It is also the third-most indebted country in the world after the United States and Japan. In its European context, Italy’s mountain of debt is more than that of all the other so-called PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) group of financially troubled countries combined.

At 120 percent of GDP, Italy’s debt is the EU’s second-largest by that measure after Greece, which has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 150 percent. Italy’s €1.8 trillion ($2.5 trillion) debt, which is equal to the country’s national income, poses an unsustainable economic burden that will push Italy into the abyss if the government’s debt servicing costs keep rising.

Bloomberg quotes Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti: “Like with the Titanic, even the first-class passengers can’t be saved.”

Read the whole thing.


Filippo Mazzei: American Patriot

Filippo Mazzei was an Italian physician, promoter of liberty, and – many argue – an American Patriot. He was a close friend of Thomas Jefferson and acted as an agent to purchase arms for Virginia during the American Revolutionary War.


Mazzei and The Declaration of Independence

The quotation “All men are created equal” has been called an immortal declaration and perhaps the single phrase of the United States Revolutionary period with the greatest continuing importance.  Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase in the Declaration of Independence as a rebuttal to the going political theory of the day: the Divine Right of Kings.   It was thereafter quoted or incorporated into speeches by a wide array of substantial figures in American political and social life.

Historians believe Thomas Jefferson borrowed the expression from his Italian friend and neighbor.  In 1774, Filippo Mazzei wrote this for The Virginia Gazette:

“Tutti gli uomini sono per natura egualmente liberi e indipendenti. Quest’ eguaglianza è necessaria per costituire un governo libero. Bisogna che ognuno sia uguale all’altro nel diritto naturale.”

Translated by a friend and neighbor of Mazzei, it was published as follows:

“All men are by nature equally free and independent.  Such equality is necessary in order to create a free government.  All men must be equal to each other in natural law.”

In his book, A Nation of Immigrants, John F. Kennedy wrote:

“The great doctrine ‘All men are created equal’ incorporated into the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, was paraphrased from the writing of Philip Mazzei, an Italian-born patriot and pamphleteer, who was a close friend of Jefferson.   A few alleged scholars try to discredit Mazzei as the creator of this statement and idea, saying that “there is no mention of it anywhere until after the Declaration was published”.  This phrase appears in Italian in Mazzei’s own hand, written in Italian, several years prior to the writing of the Declaration of Independence.  Mazzei and Jefferson often exchanged ideas about true liberty and freedom.   No one man can take complete credit for the ideals of American democracy.”

In 1980, the United States Postal Service, in conjunction with its Italian counterpart, issued stamps commemorating the 280th anniversary of Mazzei’s birth.

On September 12, 1984, Congressman Mario Biaggi entered an appreciation of Mazzei into the Congressional Record.   The essay was written by Sister Margherita Marchione, a history professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University.


Filippo Mazzei’s Life

Filippo Mazzei was born in Poggio a Caiano in Tuscany.   He studied medicine in Florence and practiced it in Italy and the Middle East for several years before moving to London in 1755 to take up a career as a merchant.  While in London he met the Americans Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Adams of Virginia, who persuaded him to undertake his next venture.

In 1773 Filippo Mazzei led a group of Italians who came to Virginia to introduce the cultivation of vineyards, olives, and other Mediterranean fruits. He became a neighbor and friend of Thomas Jefferson, and the two of them began what became the first commercial vineyard in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Jefferson asked Mazzei to plant a vineyard at his estate in Monticello, Virginia.  In a letter to Mazzei dated July 1, 1779, President George Washington wrote, “I thank you for your obliging act of the culture of the wine, and I am happy to hear that your plantation of them is in so prosperous a way.”

Jefferson and Mazzei shared an interest in politics and libertarian values, and maintained an active correspondence for the rest of Mazzei’s life.  Mazzei began to establish his reputation as a patriot by joining the revolutionary war effort. He became a private in the “Independent Company” of Albemarle when the British first landed troops at Hampton.   Jefferson gave him a copy of the “Rough Draught” of the Declaration of Independence, while an excerpt of Mazzei’s “Instructions of the Freeholders of Albemarle County to their Delegates in Convention” was used by Jefferson in his attempt to institute a new state constitution.   Mazzei also signed a petition for Jefferson’s Committee on Religion to abolish spiritual tyranny.   By 1778 it was decided by Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason and others that Mazzei’s efforts would be most useful abroad; he was sent to try to borrow money from the Grand Duke of Tuscany for Virginia and to gather useful political and military information for Governor Jefferson.

After briefly visiting the United States again in 1785, Mazzei travelled throughout Europe promoting Republican ideals.  He wrote a political history of the American Revolution, “Recherches historiques et politiques sur les Etats-Unis de l’Amerique septentrionale”, and published it in Paris in 1788.   As the first history of the American Revolution to be published in French, the book became known as a source about the truth of the American Revolution, a counterweight to British propaganda and French misinformation.

The success of his book led to his appointment as the Polish Chargé de Affaires in Paris.  Mazzei furthered his career by moving to Warsaw to work as an agent for the enlightened King Stanislaus Augustus of Poland.   The King had admired Mazzei’s efforts during the American and French revolutions, and Mazzei eventually helped to reestablish relations between France and Poland.   He remained in Warsaw as the King’s privy councilor until the second division of Poland forced his retirement.   He later spent more time in France and became active in the politics of the French Revolution under the Directorate. When Napoleon overthrew that government Mazzei returned to Pisa, Italy.  He died there in 1816.

After his death the remainder of his family returned to the United States at the urging of Thomas Jefferson.  They settled in Massachusetts and Virginia.  Mazzei’s daughter married the nephew of John Adams.


The Mazzei Family

The Mazzei Family Tree

The history of the Mazzei family is closely linked not just to the history of winemaking in Tuscany, but to the political and cultural history of the entire region.  The first documents that name the Mazzeis – originally from the winemaking area of Carmignano – date back to the early eleventh century.

The family coat of arms, bearing three wooden hammers, tools emblematic of the cooper’s trade, also dates back to this time. In the fourteenth century, the coat of arms instead displayed three iron maces that still adorn it today.   Since the very beginning, the Mazzeis have been winemakers and active participants in Florentine cultural and commercial life, often times holding important posts in city government.

Ser Lapo Mazzei (1350-1412), a winemaker from Carmignano, dedicated to the art of making fine wine, was a Notary of the Florence city government and Proconsul of the Art of Judges and Notaries.  His brother Lionardo also cultivated vineyards in Carmignano, in the Grignano estate, where he produced wine according to the instructions of his more expert brother, Ser Lapo.

There is an interesting series of correspondence between Ser Lapo Mazzei and Francesco Datini, the famous Merchant of Prato.  The documents are rich in judicial and commercial advice and also contain many comments referring to agronomy and oenology.  Winemaking, purchasing, and storage are recurrent themes in Ser Lapo’s letters:   “Don’t concern yourself about the cost of the wine, though it be high: its goodness is restorative,” he wrote to Datini in 1394, inviting him to overcome his frugality and appreciate its quality.

Ser Lapo Mazzei is also considered the father of the Chianti name.  He authored the first known document using the denomination, a commercial contract bearing his signature, dated December 16, 1398:

“To be paid, on December 16 (1398), 3 florins, 26 soldi and 8 dinars, to Piero di Tino Riccio, for 6 barrels of Chianti wine….the above pay by letter of Ser Lapo Mazzei.”

It is the granddaughter of Ser Lapo Mazzei, Madonna Smeralda, who was married to Piero di Agnolo da Fonterutoli, that the Mazzei family owes the ownership of the Fonterutoli estate, passed down from 1435 until today, across 24 generations.

Brothers Filippo and Francesco (standing) and Lapo (seated) Mazzei

Today, after almost six centuries, the Mazzei family — under the guidance of Lapo, who oversees the property with the help of his sons, Filippo and Francesco, — still devotes itself to winemaking, with a constant commitment, an eye towards innovation, and an abiding respect for the land.

I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Filippo and Francesco and their family, both at Bellavitae and in Tuscany.  Their commitment to quality winemaking and the preservation of their family heritage makes it an honor to call them friends.  The wine from the family’s estates reflects this commitment vintage after vintage.  I urge you to try the wines from these historic vineyards.  And this Independence Day, why not open a bottle and toast to a great American Patriot:  Filippo Mazzei.



Further Reading: