Tag Archives: taste test

Friday Linkage 7/26/2019

The heat and humidity finally broke here in eastern Iowa this week and we got to open the windows.  Okay, we opened the windows in our house but it seems like everyone else still has their air conditioning running full blast.  Naturally, this includes my neighbors who run their air conditioning even when it is sixty degrees outside.  It must be an ice box inside that house.

These are the same neighbors who complain about their high electricity bill.  So it also makes sense that these same neighbors would install a hot tub.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, says high electricity costs quite like a hot tub.

On to the links…

American Green—If there is one thing that I wish people would do it is that they stop obsessing—in terms of both time and money—about the lawns surrounding their homes.  Who cares if a stray dandelion shows up or some clover has established itself?  Who cares it some spots start to brown out when the mercury hits 90 degrees?

New York Just Passed the Most Ambitious Climate Target in the Country—There is no climate leadership at the federal level, so it falls to cities and states to move things forward.  Luckily, the states most likely to move forward also happen to be home to a lot of people and a lot of economic activity.

Refinery Explosions Raise New Warnings About Deadly Chemical—If a Tesla or other electric vehicle catches fire there is sure to be a whole raft of coverage.  If a normal ICE car bursts into flames or an oil refinery explodes there is little coverage.  Never mind the potential of a truly catastrophic incident at an oil refinery.

It’s Just Good Business: Even Red States Are Dumping Coal for Solar—I think that this needs to be the response for anyone who gets asked a question about solar power.  It’s just good business.

Waste Only: How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World—Plastic is bad.  It may be a necessary evil in some applications, but limiting the use of plastics is the ultimate goal.

Cigarette Butts are the Most Pervasive Man-Made Pollutant—My late father, a former smoker who quit in his thirties, hated cigarette butts with a passion and had a more hot burning hate for the people who threw their cigarette butts about with abandon.  His whole theory was that cigarettes with filters should be banned, all cigarettes should be called coffin nails, and the package should say “Smoke More, Die Younger.”

10 Ways the Bicycle Moved Us Forward—The bicycle is a humble solution to a lot of problems.  As we design ever more complex solutions to our problems we need to remember that easier solutions exist.

In Madrid, a Car Ban Proves Stronger Than Partisan Politics—I know it will come as a shock to most right wing reactionaries, especially the ones on Fox News who want to cover themselves in a cologne called Fossil Fuel Funk, but people actually like living in places where cars are not valued over people.  Remember, in most modern offices your car will be allotted more space in the parking lot than you will be inside the building.

How ‘Corn Sweat’ Makes Summer Days More Humid—If you live in Iowa during the summer you understand this phenomenon all too well.  The humid haze that rises from the endless fields of tall corn in July and August is like an oppressive ghost moving through the landscape.  Maybe I spend too much time cycling along these same fields in the heat.

Dunkin’ Adds Beyond Meat’s Sausage to its Menu, Starting in New York—Are we turning the corner into a world where renewable energy is the cheapest source of electricity, people actually care about the climate, and non-meat alternatives are commonplace?  I sure know that non-meat alternatives seem to be everywhere.

Can You Taste the Difference Between Plant-Based Meat and Beef? Burger King Sweden is Betting No.—This is what the people behind calling plant protein “meat” in Arkansas are worried about.  Okay, their actually being funded by a locally powerful meat industry to take this fight on but their paymasters fear this outcome.

Has Wine Gone Bad?—When reading Napa at Last Light by James Conaway I was struck by some critiques of wineries for the total lack of environmental consideration.  The gist was basically that if anyone actually knew just how much of a bad actor the wine industry was in California it would cripple the industry’s marketing efforts.

The Budweiser Beer Empire was Built on Debt. Now it’s Racing to Pay it Off—Geez, I cannot imagine how building an empire through acquisitions fueled by debt could ever go wrong?

Orange Chicken Showdown: Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken versus Aldi’s Never Any Chicken with Orange Sauce

Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken is a perennial favorite of everyone’s favorite odd little supermarket.  Freezers across the country are stocked with bags of this weekday dinner delight and it has been a lifesaver in terms of getting everyone satisfactorily fed in my household as well.

However, we seem to be living in the age of meatless alternatives.  If you like hamburgers you can default to the old standbys like Boca or Morningstar Farms, but you are more likely to choose a Beyond Burger or Impossible Burger.  Heck, you can even get moderately priced meatless fair from the ever quirky Aldi.

You can also get a bag of meatless orange chicken from Aldi.  Or is it orange not-quite-so-chicken?  I digress.

Naturally, I wanted to compare Aldi’s offering with that of the old standby Trader Joe’s:


An initial visual inspection reveals the primary difference between the two products.  The Aldi alternative is much more like chicken nuggets with sauce while the Trader Joe’s offering is more akin to Chinese takeout.  If you desire the craggy and crunchy thrill of deep fried chicken pieces than Trader Joe’s will win every time.  You can see the difference:


In truth, that is the primary difference.  Let’s be honest for a moment.  The presence of actual chicken versus a textured vegetable protein is almost a non-factor because I do not know of anyone who eats frozen orange chicken because of the meat.  This is a show about crunchy fried bits and orange sauce.  Unless you run across a stray piece of cartilage there is nothing that you remember about the chicken.  I posit that you could sell people pieces of deep fried batter in orange sauce, minus any actual protein, and it would sell quite well.

Aside from the texture difference of the chicken pieces there is a slight difference in the taste of the orange sauce.  The Aldi version is slightly thinner and sweeter.  The Trader Joe’s version is thicker and has a vinegar bite.  Which do you prefer?  That would be personal as I know people who prefer thin red sweet and sour over thicker and more vinegary sweet and sour.

The real question I have is why Aldi could not have made a meatless orange chicken that duplicated the craggy fried goodness of the Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken.  It would seem to me that random and misshapen bits of protein covered in battered and deep fried would be an easier problem to solve versus the analogue of a breast meat nugget.  Just saying.