When Imagine Foods released their flagship product, Rice Dream, onto the market in the early 80s, it was a blessing to many vegans and people with lactose intolerance. When I was a young vegan, there were few processed foods marketed toward folks of my ilk, so every one that appeared on the shelves was worth taking note of. Vegetarian and vegan products have become big business in the 21st century – big enough for Hain Celestial to decide it would be profitable to acquire Imagine Foods back in 2002. Few people understood what this change in power represented, on an ethical level. Even now, it may come as a big surprise to you to learn….
If you buy Rice Dream products, you are supporting Wal-Mart, ExxonMobil, Philip Morris and the worst of them all – Monsanto.
Yes, Monsanto, Wal-Mart, ExxonMobil and Philip Morris are all stockholders in Hain Celestial – hardly exemplars of natural, organic or healthy living. Ethical Americans would rather go thirsty than buy a Monsanto-supported product. As the inventors of Agent Orange, DDT and RoundUp, as the corporation whose grand GMO plan is to force all food-consuming beings to have to crawl to them for sustenance, no other entity has a blacker name in the history of mankind.
Corporate interests go where the money is, and so when organic and vegetarian products became profitable, the pollution of these healthy industries with sinister stockholders and alliances was really almost inevitable. Fortunately, you still have the power of your choice, and if health foods companies choose to be bought out by ‘the enemy’, you can respond by withdrawing your dollar and doing it yourself. You can learn how to make rice milk, or any other kind of healthy milk. *Recipe to follow.
If Imagine Foods/Hain Celestial’s ugly alliances aren’t reason enough for you to stop handing them part of your paycheck every month, then maybe a closer look at a Rice Dream label will give you cause for pause. For years, I purchased Rice Dream Enriched Vanilla Rice Milk. I probably read the label the first time I bought it, long ago, and never thought about it again for many years. It was just a few years ago that an ingredient caught my eye and surprised me as it should have in the first place. The ingredient? Natural flavors
Natural Flavors Are Not Natural
The valueless substances listed as natural or artificial flavors are mainly manufactured in giant space-age laboratories off the New Jersey Turnpike. Adding these totally worthless chemicals to food is a way to trick human beings into thinking a substance has a good taste. A natural flavor chemist could hand you a piece of cardboard chemically flavored to taste like an apple pie and your innocent taste buds would likely be deceived to the point that you’d eat the cardboard.
Natural flavors are used to make poor quality processed foods seem to taste good, effectively masking the true taste of whatever the product is. International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) is the world’s biggest producer of these deceptive chemicals, and when you consider the fact that they are also responsible for putting the smell into floor polish, detergents, cleaners and other products, you may lose your appetite, but gain back a little bit of your power to enjoy foods that taste like themselves instead of a chemical additive.
The technical difference between a ‘natural flavor’ and an ‘artificial flavor’ is that the chemicals in the so-called natural one had to derive from a real food at some point in its history. There is no meaningful nutritional value, wholesomeness or reason for the addition of these unwanted chemicals in your food. Good food doesn’t need to play tricks to be palatable, so what is that ‘natural flavor’ doing in Rice Dream Enriched Vanilla Rice Milk?
I wrote to the company and asked about this some years ago, and received a form response explaining that Hain Celestial does not add MSG to Rice Dream. I hadn’t asked about MSG. I’d asked about the exact chemicals they were putting in the milk. Basically, they wouldn’t tell me. In comparing Rice Dream’s Original package to Rice Dream’s Vanilla package, I noticed that the chemicals were absent from the former label, and came to my own conclusion that the chemicals being put in the Vanilla product were phony vanilla. Rather than investing in real vanilla beans (which are costly), Hain Celestial had decided to trick my taste buds with a chemical substitute, I decided.
I wasn’t too happy about this, or about their response to my very clear and polite inquiry, but this company’s products had been a staple in my household for so long, I chose to switch to the Original (natural flavor free) Rice Dream. I sat with that decision for about a year, until I learned about the Monsanto connection and decided that I had to stop giving my hard earned money to these folks.
More than this, a move away from Rice Dream rice milk would be in alignment with our family’s goals to become ever more skilled at self-sufficiency. We are working to reskill ourselves so that we are capable of producing as much of what we need as possible, as our incredibly skilled ancestors did. Reskilling yourself could involve learning to cook, sew, farm, weave, make baskets, do carpentry, preserve foods or even build your own house. Some of those projects are big ones, obviously, but as it turns out, making your own rice milk is about as easy as making a smoothie in the blender. This is a do-it-yourself project that anyone can do!
Still Not Sure?
As I learn to be more skilled, part of that process involves seeing my daily bread with new eyes. I wonder about the farmer who grew the organic blueberries we bought this week because I was really craving some fresh fruit and our own berries aren’t ripe yet. I wonder about the cloth I’m making a quilt with and promise myself that if my family needs another quilt, I will find a supplier of organic Non-GMO cotton fabric for the next one. I think about all of the bottled water I used to buy, and the unknown source of it, the scary plastic surrounding it, and thousands of my dollars going into the pocket of the Nestle corporation because I was buying Arrowhead. It may seem like a burden to some to have to be concerned about all of these details, but I consider it a blessing to be able to find knowledge that helps me to make choices that align with my personal values. I’m glad that knowledge is out there.
If the Monsanto connection isn’t enough, if the phony chemical tastes factor isn’t enough, then maybe you ought to ask yourself a couple questions about the other ingredients in Rice Dream’s non-dairy milks.
1) Where does the rice come from? It says it’s organic, but where is it actually from? The USA, China, India? I, for one, have been completely freaked out by the imported foods coming into our grocery stores from China where there is no meaningful oversight and human sewage is used to fertilize fields.
2) Where does the water come from? Water is becoming a totally serious issue for everyone on the planet now. When my Native ancestors walked the earth, all water sources were relatively pure and fit for human consumption. Drink from a stream in the USA now and you are likely to get deadly sick, or even die. Not only this, but municipal water sources treat city water with all kinds of horrific things to make it ‘drinkable’ (chlorine, for one – a carcinogen) and some cities pour fluoride into city water for absolutely no other reason than that it’s a factory waste that has to go ‘somewhere’ and factories make money off of selling it to the water companies who were tricked long ago into thinking it’s good for teeth! A big scandal…and a big reason why so many people filter their water at home before drinking it. My own family is currently paying $100/month to filter our well water and we try not to cringe about this. After all, water is life.
But where does the water in Rice Dream products come from? Is it safe? It says it’s filtered. How is it filtered? What’s filtered out of it? What levels of toxins does Hain Celestial consider safe in the water they use in their huge factories where their products are produced? I don’t know the answer to these questions. If I was still buying Rice Dream milk, I would be asking them, but fear I’d get another form letter. If the Monsanto connection and the natural flavor nonsense doesn’t bug you, but you are committed to giving yourself and your family healthy foods, maybe this would be a good time to ask Hain Celestial about the source of their rice and water. Make a good choice about this. It’s up to you.
And now for the recipe you’ve all been waiting for!
How To Make Rice Milk – The Recipe
Ingredients and Supplies:
1 cup uncooked organic long grain brown rice
8 cups water for cooking
More water for diluting
1 teaspoon salt
Glass mason jars for storage
Thoroughly wash the rice.
Put 8 cups of water in a big pot and bring it to a boil over high heat.
Pour in the rice.
Cover the pot and lower the heat to let the water simmer.
Cook for 3 hours.
You will end up with something that looks a bit like a soupy rice pudding. Add the salt.
In batches, fill your blender halfway with the rice mixture and halfway with water. Blend until very smooth. Strain twice through a fine mesh strainer into a mason jar. Continue on with the rest of the milk until you’re finished, filling jars and screwing the lids on good and tight.
Even with the extra water, the homemade rice milk ends up thicker than the product you might be used to if you’ve always purchased Rice Dream Rice Milk. It’s more like rice cream! You may want to dilute it further at the time of serving it. Just add a bit more water until it’s the desired consistency.
Optional Additions To Your Rice Milk Recipe
A look at the label of Rice Dream Rice Milk reveals that it contains oil. Oil does make things creamier, and we like to add about 2 Tablespoons of organic sunflower oil to our batch of milk.
We also like to add about 4 Tablespoons of Maple Syrup to our batch of milk, as we are still used to the slightly sweeter taste of the Rice Dream product than what you get from homemade. It’s not a big difference…just a little one.
Making a blended rice and nut milk is a cinch. At the blending stage, add some blanched raw almonds or hazelnuts, or some cashews for an even richer, creamier, more nutritious milk.
What About Nutrition In Homemade Rice Milk?
Rice Dream’s Enriched Rice Milk has supplements added to it to give it more nutrition. The figures are as follows, according to the label.
1 Cup Gives You:
10% of your US RDA of Vitamin A
30% of your US RDA of Calcium
25% of your US RDA of Vitamin D
15% of your US RDA of Phosphorus
4% of your US RDA of Iron
25% of your US RDA of Vitamin B12
Families who are concerned that ceasing to drink Rice Dream’s processed, enriched product might leave them with a nutrition deficit might want to consider inventing a way for enriching their homemade rice milk with a liquid vitamin supplement. Or, simply take a vitamin supplement if you are concerned about this. That would be a safe bet.
Our family really isn’t concerned about this as we consider rice milk to be a bit of a side dish and not a central source of nutrition in our very rich and varied daily diet. Wondering where you can get these vitamins and calcium in your daily fare? Here’s a quick list:
Leafy greens, sesame seeds, figs, oranges
Nearly all foods contain some amount of phosphorous. Seeds, beans and nuts have a great deal of it, but there is controversy about the absorption of it in the medical community. Oddly, nearly all of the literature I’ve seen recently on phosphorous deals with becoming a vegan to avoid renal (kidney) failure caused by overdosing on the high amounts of phosphorous in meat and dairy.
Comes from getting about 15 minutes of sunlight a day. Again, if you’re worried, take a supplement. Why fret?
People used to get B12 from eating unwashed vegetables. It’s not really something I’d recommend, so this is the one thing that most vegans take as a supplement. It’s a big controversy, and one that’s better to be safe than sorry about. Go ahead, take the supplement.
Lentils, spinach, other greens. Absorption appears to be increased when you eat an iron containing food with a vitamin C containing food, just so you know. Most vegans eat vast quantities of iron if they are eating a whole foods diet.
So, we, personally are not too concerned around here about not drinking a fortified processed food (Rice Dream Rice Milk) because we have such balance across the board when we eat. Some families tend to think along the lines of nutritious foods and junk foods. They eat dinner for nutrition and junky foods just for fun. We don’t really have junk food around here, but we do think of some foods as basics and others as frills. For example, maple syrup is hardly essential to our health, but we like to have it as a frill. Rice milk, to us, is a frill. Something nice to cream up our tea or add to a sauce or blender drink. Not the staff of our life.
If rice milk is a food to you, and you are feeling concerned about vitamin sources, definitely do your own research on this. What may be a good choice for us may not be a good choice for you and your specific situation. People have been making milks from seeds, nuts and plants for countless ages. Have confidence. No matter where you come from, you come from a tradition of skilled people.
How Much Rice Milk Does A Recipe Make?
Our recipe makes about 5 one pint glass mason jars of rice milk. When we purchased commercial rice milk, our family went through about 1/2 gallon of this milk a week. That’s the big container of Rice Dream Rice Milk. There are 4 pints in 1/2 gallon, so the above Rice Milk Recipe makes a little over a week’s supply of milk for us. You may need more or less. You could halve the recipe if you need less milk.
Most of the time spent making the milk is in the 3 hour cooking, and you don’t have to do anything during that time. Just let it cook.
When the milk has been poured into the mason jars, store it in the refrigerator.
Food Is Power
The great humanitarian and farmer, John Jeavons, once said:
Food is Power…Are You In Control Of Yours?
As an American and an inheritor of the legacy of a system that has valued money over brotherly love, I know my people, poor people, innocent people, unthinking people, simple, decent people have been burned one too many times by corporations that have marketed ‘progress’ and ‘convenience’ to them.
In this country, many of us are beginning to realize that when we traded in our own skills for the convenient agreement of others doing our work in exchange for money, we won ourselves a world of pesticides, polluted skies and water, contaminated food and foreign sweatshop labor. We stopped living like the incredibly skilled American Indians, or even the early pioneers, nearly all of whom knew how to grow food, make fire, build shelter, find water, craft clothing and feed people. We have become a nation of unskilled workers who pay others to do everything we need for the very basics of being alive, and those we have given our money to have failed to resist the temptation to increase profit by casting care for human and environmental health aside.
Food is power, and by taking the control of it back into your hands as much as you possibly can, you are strengthening yourself as a human person. I realize, few of us are going to be able to create a rice paddy in our backyard, but we can get as deep down on the chain of events as possible. We can purchase rice that is grown without chemicals and is processed as little as possible. We can cook our own rice, and we can make our own milk from it to feed our dear ones well.
You can retrieve your power, your authority over your own life in the steps and stages that feel comfortable and reasonable to you. Today you have learned how to make rice milk – and if you try it, I think you’ll decide it’s absolutely delicious. More than this, though, I think you may feel that you’ve really accomplished something good. Maybe for you, this is a bold act of defiance against the corruption of the Organics industry with big, moneyed, dirty corporate players. Maybe it’s the thougthful act of the gourmet cook who insists on having fresh foods instead of processed ones that have been sitting on a supermarket shelf for who knows how long. Or, maybe it’s just a new way to take better care of yourself by taking the time you deserve to prepare wholesome foods. All reasons are good reasons if they help you to act with diginity and discernment in your daily life.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this reskilling lesson. Let us know if you give making your own rice milk a try.
Addendum, Oct, 2010: At the time of writing this addendum, this post on Making Your Own Rice Milk has received nearly 200 comments. They contain great information from our readers, and one issue that has repeatedly come up strikes us as so important, we’ve decided to add a postscript to this article:
Non-Dairy Milks Are Not The Same Thing As Infant Formula
We have been contacted by numerous parents whose babies have allergies to dairy or other substances. Infants who, for one reason or another, cannot be given their mother’s milk must be put on a scientifically formulated infant formula that contains a close approximation of the nutrition found in human milk. This infant formula is not the same thing as rice milk, soy milk, nut milk, cow’s milk or any other milk. You must not confuse the two things, or your infant may suffer deficiencies, disease, starvation and death. This is vital for all parents to understand.
When a weaned child has graduated to a fully solid diet and is receiving his or her total nutrition from solid foods, it is fine to supplement their diet with non-dairy milks, juices and other beverages, but do not depend on these drinks for your child’s nutrition.
If you must wean a baby early, or if your child is suffering from allergies and you are in the process of finding out how to properly nourish him or her, please, go to a licensed nutritionist who can test your child for allergies and help you develop a diet that will meet 100% of your child’s nutritional needs. Do not depend on the Internet for medical information for infants or children. Go to a nutritionist. Failure to do so may result in devastating consequences for your infant of child.
Again, do not confuse non-dairy milks with infant formula, and please, seek medical advice for any infant or child with nutritional or health problems.
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