Pomegranate Flavor


I do not get excited about pomegranates. I like them, but they are not special to me. My family has a few pomegranate trees, and I think they are messy and difficult to eat. They make great fall decorations, though. In the late 1970's, my siblings, the neighbor kids and I made an event out of eating pomegranates. Since my  mom didn't want to clean up a huge mess, she forbid us from eating them in the house. She told us to put on our old clothes and go outside when we wanted to "crack open" a pomegranate. We would smash them on a concrete slab, pick out the seeds (arils), gorge and eventually become annoyed by the slow process of eating a pomegranate. Apples and pears, which also ripen in the fall, were much easier to eat and … [Read more...]

Hop oil

Hop Flower (http://cahnrs.wsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/hop-cones.jpg)

I am not a beer connoisseur. In fact, the large majority of my beer drinking was done between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. During that time, price was a concern; not taste. My interest in beer was purely social (i.e.. party!!!) In 1990, my early 20's, the beer market was different. We drank "big company beer", Miller and Coors. Currently, strong flavored craft beers appear to be the rage. These brews typically use up to five times more hops than traditional brews. Hops provides flavor (aroma) and bitterness to beer. Hops are part of the Cannabaceae family of flowering plants, which also includes Cannabis. Hops (Humulus lupulus), unlike Cannabis,  is a climbing perennial herb which grows up to 25 feet per season. A large … [Read more...]

I put chemicals in people’s food

Childhood Cancer Awareness

I put chemicals in people's food. I have been shamed for this, but the shame I have given myself hurts more. The year is 2005: My two year old was having a MRI  "to rule out anything". The MRI went over the scheduled 15-10 minutes. Finally, after over an hour, the MRI was complete and the doctor asked me to sit down. He told me my toddler had a mass in her head and that he is admitting her to the hospital. I asked to use the phone to call my husband. I told him calmly to get to the hospital, I heard him running and he was short of breath. Then I called my mom and could barely talk through the sobs. She got angry with me for not being able to talk; then she got upset. We were both hysterical. I thought that a toddler … [Read more...]

Pineapple flavor and Allyl caproate


My favorite unit in O-Chem(Organic Chemistry) was when the professor brought in a small bottle of Allyl caproate (aka Allyl hexanoate FEMA #2032) for the class to evaluate. It was my first exposure to a flavor aromatic. He passed around the bottle and asked us carefully smell the bottle and tell the class what we thought. I was intrigued, it smelled like pineapple. From that moment on, I was hooked on O-Chem. The unit's focus was probably naming or was focused on esters. Allyl caproate is an ester. Esters are often times described as fruity.  Allyl describes the group of atoms attached to the ester group.         Allyl caproate is fruity and smells like pineapple, but also has a … [Read more...]

Oil and Water; Math and Science


The orange peel contains the fragrance of the fruit, the "essential oil". An essential oil is different that a "fixed oil" (nut or vegetable oil) which is not fragrant. Flavor scientists value essential oils and they extract them so they can use them in flavors. These oils are excellent starting materials  for flavoring beverages, but they need to be modified to be useful. They do not "go into" a beverage. We modify the oils to make them "go in" or  make them "miscible". Chemists use miscible to explain the phenomenon of  two liquids with similar polarities (intermolecular interactions) being combined uniformly. In contract, chemists use soluble to explain the phenomenon of a solid (solute) dissolving in a liquid … [Read more...]

Lab Girl and Eucalyptol

LAB GIRL by Hope Jahren

Depression and anxiety are illnesses that haunt me. Sometimes they demand my undivided attention and other times they merely have an underlying presence in my thoughts. They hurt me, but they also help me develop new ideas. Hope Jahren's new novel, Lab Girl, chronicles her struggles with mental anguish as well as love of lab, science and hard work. In some ways, we are very much alike. We both: were born in 1969 love science and working in a lab are fascinated by nature understand Norwegian culture; having both lived there struggled as females in the science field with few women mentors like to write work too hard have difficulties managing stress and anxiety manage extreme anxiety by chewing hands or nails are … [Read more...]

Watermelon and 2,6-Dimethyl-5-heptenal (FEMA#2389)


Memorial day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and that means watermelon. Watermelon is the fruit we pack in the cooler for picnics at the park. In contrast, watermelon flavored candies are not a universal American favorite. Some people think only "monsters" like watermelon candy. When LifeSavers Five Flavors replaced the green lime flavored candy with a green watermelon flavored candy, it was a sad day. Like candy blog mentioned we were not asked what flavor we like; they just changed it. Personally, I find that watermelon flavor always seems to taste like cleaner or chemicals. Often, this is because a chemical found in watermelon and known to characterize it, 2,6-Dimethyl-5-heptenal (aka melonal) is too high (e.g. 0.1 ppm … [Read more...]

Vinegar and Acetic acid

Vinegar, cooking and cleaning type

"What's on the wall above the shower?"asks my husband. "That's mold", I say in unbelief, thinking "Is he completely unaware that mold has been growing on and off in our bathroom for at least a year?? Does he not notice anything??" He then asks nicely,"Did you know vinegar is good for cleaning mold?" I reply (almost sarcastically )"great, then can you get the vinegar, climb up there, and wipe it down?"  He tells me "I should probably do that", but I don't hold my breath. A few days later, I get the Lysol wipes, a step stool and rub the mold off the walls above the shower. I do not use vinegar but I do scrub.   Vinegar (~ 5% dilution of acetic acid) is a weak acid and a good sanitizer (kills germs). Mold is controlled by … [Read more...]

Grapes, Grandma and Methyl anthranillate


My grandmother died last month. She's been in my thoughts quite a bit. In fact, just last week, while preparing grapes, I thought of her. Grandma showed me how to prepare grapes by cutting them into little bunches. She said little bunches are handy for grabbing, packing in lunches, and as snacks. Every summer, I spent at least two weeks at her beach house in Laguna playing in the ocean. After a few "wipe-outs" in the  waves, cold grapes were a good snack. This summer, while vacationing in southern California, I kept with tradition and prepared grape bunches for beach snacks. My kids loved the grapes as well as the ocean and boogie boarding. My last conversation with my grandmother was about my beach vacation and I told her my girls … [Read more...]

The Bitter Taste of Science Fair

Tonic Water (needed to make glowing slime)

I'm feeling drained this New Years. In fact, I blew off my resolution to join a gym so I could stay home and drink wine. I feel stressed because my kid wants to take part in the school science fair. From the moment I picked her up from school, I was overwhelmed. We returned from a vacation late the night before, so I had groceries to put away, dishes to clean, dinner to start, laundry to begin and a middle schooler who needed help with her math homework. My 3rd grader was now demanding I understand the  excitement of science fair? She insisted I arrange playdates to recreate experiments from you-tube and get her signed up for science fair NOW!  If that wasn't enough, she was adamant that we go to the store and get tonic water and potato … [Read more...]