Good Food

We all have interest in our food tasting good. We bake, fry, ferment, grill, etc. foods to improve its taste. We share recipes, seek out good restaurants, watch cooking shows, follow food bloggers and invest in our kitchens to make our food taste good. After all, food not only sustains us, it provides connection and delights our senses. A Personal Decision Even though food is a noun (substance), food is also very personal and evokes an emotional response.  What makes food so personal? Medical differences, some people have sensitivities (ie. intolerance, allergies, reactions). Ethics, some people practice religion that condone certain food substances, for example shellfish is not kosher. Others choose to be vegetarian because of … [Read more...]

Oil and Water; Math and Science

Essential Oil 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

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. Connection with the Author 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 … [Read more...]

Mothers and blogging

There was a moment during the birth of my first daughter, when my only hope was that both my baby and I survived. Since that point forward, my mothering mantra has pretty much stayed the same. My children have had life threatening experiences and have had emotionally challenging experiences. Every pain they feel, I feel. Every fear they have, I feel as well. My vision of motherhood was not what  motherhood turned out to be. What I have found out is that mothering is emotional rollercoaster and it demands great responsibility. Even though there is responsibility, I enjoy my children and the experience. Like any good experience, the years since my eldest was born have flown by. We have had close moments when I share myself and my hopes, … [Read more...]

Futuristic Food Pills?

The Jetsons Does anyone remember the Jetson's cartoon and "food pills"? They came in all sorts of flavors, satisfied biological functional needs and seemed enjoyable to consume? Personally, I don't envision food pills in our futuristic society, but it's an interesting concept. Are food pills in the future because they are convenient? Will they be well accepted? or is it because food pills are safer to consume? Potential Hazards in Food Supply Deadly food allergies are increasing, more people are sensitive to gluten, there are deadly new pathogens like E. coli O157:H7 and natural plant materials can be toxic. Realistically, one could make an argument that food pills could provide a safer food supply for our society. In contrast, one … [Read more...]

There’s money in Menthol

Menthol is the most important flavoring chemical. Without menthol it would be difficult to get that cool clean feeling when we brush our teeth or chew gum. Cough syrups and drops wouldn't cool the throat and open nasal passages. In 2007, it was estimated that production of menthol was in excess of 19,000 metric tons.  Because of it's importance, there is a huge demand for this flavor chemical. It is a natural material and therefore subject to price fluctuations as a result of envrionmental conditions. Naturally, peppermint oil (Mentha piperita) contains approximately 35-45% menthol and corn mint oil (Mentha arvensis) contains 65-75% menthol. Mentha arvensis is largely grown in India and used to produce menthol. Because menthol is a … [Read more...]

I am Strawberry

By labeling a person in a single category you leave nothing more for them to be. In order to streamline processes, though, managers label and categorize flavor chemists. Depending on the situation, I've been labeled: natural color expert, savory flavor chemist, sweet flavor chemist, natural flavorist, beverage flavorist, mint flavorist, safety expert and food applications chemist. These are  the positive labels that I've been given; the negative labels were considered, but eventually blocked out. The most lasting label I've had is "strawberry". Strawberry is one of the top ten flavors for yogurt. It is the second favorite flavor for yogurt after vanilla. (Euromonitor 2007, top 10 flavored yogurts). Strawberry flavor is also popular for … [Read more...]

Methyl salicylate, Artificial Wintergreen oil (FEMA 2745)

A standard lab experiment in organic chemistry is to convert aspirin(acetylsalicylic acid) to Methyl salicylate. Methyl salicylate is an ester which smells sweet, is strong, is approved for use in food and is the characterizing flavor of wintergreen. Wintergreen flavor is very popular in the United States. Countries like Japan and Italy think it's most suitable for cleaning bathrooms, but not for eating. Personally, Wintergreen is one of my favorite flavors. It not only adds cool minty flavor, it adds sweetness. You can taste wintergreen in toothpastes, candies, gums, rootbeer, and bubble gum. Yes, that's right, root beer.  Try a swig of rootbeer;  doesn't it taste a little like wintergreen?  Rootbeer also has vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, … [Read more...]

Orange Essential Oil

The most popular beverage flavor in the United States is orange. Although consumption of orange juice has declined in recent years, Americans are reported to have consumed 715,775 metric tons of orange juice in 2011.(http://www.indexmundi.com/agriculture/?country=us&commodity=orange-juice&graph=domestic-consumption)  That's a lot of juice!  Oranges are primarily grown in Florida, California and Brazil and they are processed for their juice. So what happens to the peels? Peels are further processed to isolate orange essential oil. Basically, the oil is squeezed out of the peel. Orange oil consists of limonene (~90%), geraniol (~5%), decanal (~3%), octanal (~3%) and myrcene (~2%). Other components included alpha and beta pinene, … [Read more...]

Flavors, oh how I love thee….

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 … [Read more...]