The Nose Knows

Pacific Science Center In an unusual turn of events, my 14-year-old has proclaimed she learned something from her mom. Prior conversations involved me being told I am mean and know nothing. So does this mean that my teen daughter has matured and appreciates her mom's wisdom? Not exactly, she learned at my STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) presentations that our noses are responsible for allowing us to sense food's flavor. Therefore, when I insisted she "at least try " the slaw I made for dinner the other night, she proclaimed she learned something useful from mom and ate the slaw while plugging her nose. She knew if she did this she would avoid sensing the slaw's flavor. We can only sense a food's flavor by using our … [Read more...]

A Little about Lemon

Lemon flavor is great tasting, simple and environmentally friendly. The lemon oil we use to formulate flavors is extracted from lemon peel by cold pressing it from the rinds. Typically this oil is comprised of: Limonene: 75%, Citral 10%, as well as Terpinene, alpha-Pinene, beta-Pinene, Heptanal, Octanal, Nonanal, Decanal, Undecanal, l-Linalool, alpha-Terpineol and 4-Terpineol. Citral, however, is the characterizing component of lemon oil. Most people say Citral reminds them of Lemon Pledge®. Flavor chemists carefully select oils, blend and enhance, so lemon flavors are peceived to be desireable, fresh and juicy, and not like furniture polish. Lemon flavor has a reputation for being unstable. This is primarily because of … [Read more...]

Tazo Tea Vanilla Bean Macaron

Stomach issues and weight gain have forced me to seek medical advice on my diet and exercise routine. I'm nearing 50, so it's time to admit I that I do not have an iron stomach anymore. An occupational therapist is helping me find a good "routine" and adjust my diet to suit my nutritional needs. I've also connected with fitness advisors that offer similar services. After a few weeks, we determined I should eat smaller, more frequent nutritionally dense meals to avoid sugar cravings and prevent overeating treats. I like treats, so thankfully, I've been told desserts are just fine (in moderation). Desserts are everywhere. They are even in the tea and coffee isle at the supermarket:   This trend of adding dessert … [Read more...]

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. 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 their love for … [Read more...]

Too Good to be True

I lost my innocence at age 27. It was the day I realized what is on a food label may not really be what is in the food. When the analytical tests showed that the "natural" food flavor I was trying to copy was actually artificial, I was shocked. Now, I look back and think how unreasonable I was. People lie to make money, it exists in every market and food is no exception. When it's too good to be true, it's probably not true. The only way to know if a food flavor has artificial chemicals added is to run an assay on Gas Chromatography (GC), Mass Spectrometer (MS) or perhaps to do Carbon Isotope Testing.  Even then, a person skilled at cheating and lying can may still be able to hide the truth. Although, I've lost my innocence, I'm … [Read more...]

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

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

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...]