Grapes, Grandma and Methyl anthranillate

IMG_6299My 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 were “beach girls” just like us. We giggled and reminisced about our favorite beaches, the ocean and the nice southern California weather. If we had to have a last conversation, I’m glad it was about the beach.

In my 20’s I moved to southern California to begin my career as a flavor chemist. No longer did I have to wait till summer to see Grandma and the beach. Unfortunately, living in Southern California was not as glamorous as visiting. I was single, dating and trying to get my life together. Grandma, who lived close by, was always there to listen and be a friend.

After a particularly difficult break up with a boyfriend, I asked her to join me at a business dinner put on by a flavor supplier. It was a fancy event at the Newport Yacht Club in which I was invited to bring a guest and watch the annual Christmas boat parade. Grandma was delighted to return to the club she had visited so many times before. She was the life of the party. The hosts thanked me profusely for bringing her, which delighted me. Citrus & Allied, a family owned essential oil and aromatic supplier, is the company I owe this wonderful memory to.

My grandmother thought highly of the flavor business and was proud of me. My grape flavors were simple, but good. For reasons of unoriginality, they were comprised primarily of methyl anthranillate (methyl-2-aminobenzoate FEMA 2682). Methyl anthranillate is American grape candy.

In nature, Methyl anthranillate is found in grape, as well as bergamot, jasmine, gardenia, cocoa, tea and orange. I don’t necessarily associate it with the grapes my grandma cut in bunches, but instead with childhood candies. Methyl anthranillate is fruitty as well as woody, minty, medicinal and faintly floral. It is an amine which can go through a  schiff base reaction if combined with an aldehyde.

methyl_anthranilate

 

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Comments

  1. There was excellent article from tomato people at Florida State, on how to modify the practices in supermarkets to obtain more flavorful tomatoes. Apparently, the key tomato flavor compound missing in crummy grocery store tomatoes is … methyl anthranilate!

    Also, I have my grandma memories connected to the smell of ripe summer tomatoes, picked off the plant and still warm from the sun – my grandma was quite old fashioned and only used compost as a fertilizer so her tomato harvest yields were modest but the flavor was exquisite. (Her greedy neighbor pumped his tomatoes full of nitrates and was puzzled why his monstrous crops were so watery and never ripened)

    • Susie Bautista says:

      Grandmas are always so wise! Interesting tidbit about tomato flavor. Now that you mention it, methyl anthranillate would be good in tomato flavor. Coming up with the idea is the challenge. Thank goodness for researchers.

    • Kevin Folta says:

      Your comment is exactly right except for it is University of Florida and strawberries. Otherwise spot on!

  2. Oh Susie! Your grandmother sounds delightful. I am craving grapes now, after reading that. Each time I go to the store I check to see if that first bag of domestics has arrived… Interesting about the methyl anthranillate; I happen to be crazy about everything it is in!

    • Susie Bautista says:

      Although I love grapes, I miss the days when fruit was available “in season”. August is the month I’d visit my grandparents, so grapes were in season. Having fruit available all year long takes the excitement away.