Much like stashing a box of love letters from an old boyfriend, I have kept a box of essential oils and aroma chemical bottles. These small bottles contain the aromas that I need to create perfumes for foods. Like any true love affair, I’m filled with mixed emotions as I contemplate whether I open the box again or throw it out.
For many years, formulating flavors was a dream job. Once one acquires the basic knowledge of materials and the confidence of a creative, one can blend the scent of about every flavor imaginable. Never was there a dull moment in such a job where trends ruled the industry. One day Peach Mango was popular and the next Asian Pear Green Tea Mint was at the top of the list. It is not an easy job to re-create entire products from aromas and the challenge is the appeal. Some flavors take years to optimize, others take only a few tries. Success depends on the flavor scientist’s aroma memory, tasting notes and luck. Work for a flavor scientist consists of smelling blotters of “perfumes” and determining what is missing or what “sticks out”.
Flavor work has its downside as well. It’s an apprentice job and there are years of bottle washing and helping before your “master” will allow you to create. In extreme cases, your employer will rely on you to taste every batch of product, every raw material and every sample shipping to a customer. Over eating and tasting adds to your waistline and causes extreme burnout. In my worst positions, I brushed my teeth 30+ times per day, consumed foods that had horrible off-tastes, ate candies that gave me terrible diarrhea, overindulged on beverages over fortified with kava (now known as a liver toxin) and got drunk from smelling ethanol.
I’m certain I won’t throw my box of aroma bottles away. We had good memories, but long-term our relationship will change. Since they are chemicals and some are unstable, they may oxidize or further react. I wish I could take care of them: nitrogen purge and refrigerate, but I don’t have the resources. Oh, how I’ll miss thee.