Thursday, November 15, 2012

A webinar for the (American) holidays

But it also pertains to upcoming December holidays around the globe as well...

Food Pairing: the idea that flavours with similar molecular characteristics go well together even when it sounds like they would not. More info at which is a website where they have mapped many foods against each other to give inspiration to chefs around the world!

So stop by the webinar today to listen to experts talk about unusual taste mixtures...

Bernard Lahousse has worked as a research and development manager at several food companies and as a consultant for innovation processes for various global enterprises. Lahousse organized already 3 Foodpairing events (ranked as one of the most innovative culinary events worldwide) where several of the world’s greatest chefs, including Heston Blumenthal, Albert Adrià,… discussed how they use for their own creations. In 2009 Lahousse’s passion led him along with Johan Langenbick and Peter Coucquyt, to start the Belgian-based food research company, Sense for Taste. The company’s mission is to develop methodologies to support chefs in their creativity and create tools for more efficient new product development. Here, Lahousse puts his bio-engineering degree to good use as the company’s science director.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Are food scientists becoming sexy?

Food science: A smorgasbord of opportunity

Alla Katsnelson
Nature 491, 149–150 (01 November 2012)
doi:10.1038/nj7422-149a    Published online    31 October 2012
With the big focus on food shows and chef contests, along with the massive success of the Modernist Cuisine books,  jobs for food scientists are now trendy and more plentiful.

This article highlights some types of research and some of the pitfalls that may occur to the unwary...

Monday, July 16, 2012

How much is too much?

How safe is safe enough? Are the very things in our food that make it look and taste delicious also still good for us?

The Scientist/ News and Opinion

Opinion: What’s in Your Food?

Are the “carcinogenic” chemicals that are produced when foods are cooked really cause for concern?   
By Takayuki Shibamoto | July 16, 2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Getting kids to eat their veggies...

Turns out that water will get kids to eat more veggies than soda (and other sweet drinks such as juice)

Our survey study lends empirical support to the notion that young adults do indeed hold strong drink and food combining pref- erences. While plain water (bottled or from the tap) pairs reason- ably with most foods, soda is perceived as clashing with cooked and raw vegetables but pairing very well with foods such as French fries and pizza. This finding across young adults allows for the pos- sibility that early, learned preferences contribute to adult con- sumption patterns.
In the lab study, children’s acceptance of raw vegetables was re- lated to the type of drink consumed, and was not an outcome of their general fussiness regarding eating. This finding reiterates what was learned in the survey study. Vegetables offered in com- bination with a sweetened beverage are not looked upon as favor- ably as vegetables offered in combination with water. This finding points to a variety of behavioral change strategies that might be employed to encourage healthier eating among young children.

Two possible hypotheses for this: 1. the tastes of sweet soda or juice and the slightly bitterness of some veggie clash, or 2. kids have learnt from marketing that soda goes with certain foods - think Happy Meal...

Link to the research study abstract:
(Hint: if you want to see the  full paper and don't have access, try sending the author an email and asking them to send you a copy!)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

3 second rule

By Greg Williams  for Wikipedia

This was reported recently in the Daily Mail :
To many of us, it is second nature to apply the age-old pseudo-scientific 'three second rule' on such occasions, telling ourselves we're safe if the food hit the floor only momentarily. 
The idea that food is not contaminated if it is retrieved quickly has been believed for many years - but there has not been extensive proof that this is the case.
Now though, the doubt is out as scientists have finally investigated the theory to discover whether the rule is fact or fiction.  
Five food items were tested by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to see whether the three-second rule could be trusted.
Read more:

Then this interesting analysis of science reporting was also published in  New Scientist:
This article reveals that the "scientists and researchers" mentioned in the first article was actually a single lab tech with financial support from the cleaning supplies company Vileda.

The article goes on to describe the British reporting as entertainment and relatively honest in describing the claims as slightly dodgy but that as it is spread across the world some info gets lost:
 It could have something to do with the history of science coverage in both countries, he said. American journalism started to professionalise in 1934, with the formation of the National Association of Science Writers. "Then, in the '40s, '50s and '60s, the empire strikes back."
As the scientific establishment grew in wealth and influence after World War II, its leaders began to push their own, conservative agenda on the members of the NASW. They doubled down on the idea that only "legitimate science" – that is to say, studies that were peer-reviewed and published in academic journals – should be reported to the public. The real science news, they said, was Big Science news. American journalists learned to follow their rules.
Could things have developed along a different path in Britain? While mulling this over – and chanting USA! USA! to myself in front of the computer – I noticed something about all these lousy British science stories that had escaped my attention. Yes, they described fake studies conducted by disreputable scientists, and they used the data to promote a product. But they were honest about it. Almost every story announced its lack of quality without shame or serious effort at deception. Scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University studied the five-second rule; a cleaning-supplies company called Vileda paid for the work; and now for a message from our sponsor…
But when the stories drift to the US via aggregator sites and blogs and TV news programmes, that transparency can boil right off. The five-second rule has "long been considered an old wives' tale, but now actual scientists are actually testing it," said a reporter on Good Morning America – with no mention of the cleaning supplies outfit that sponsored the research. NeitherThe Huffington Post nor Gizmodo pointed out the conflict of interest. That's the danger of receiving this crap from overseas: once it gets here, we repackage it in the self-serious American style. What starts out as entertainment ends up looking like real news.

This is one reason why anything you read in papers or online should be taken with a grain of salt unless/until you can find corroboration elsewhere or it is actually from a peer-reviewed paper. We see this a lot with all the "magic bullet/foods" that are published these days.  We need periodic reminders to be wary of snake oil salesmen...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Always a good time for chocolate

Another interesting and delicious webinar from the American Chemical Society:

From Cocoa Buds to Taste Buds – The Chocolate Process and Sensory Experience

Starting with Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs, chocolate began some 2,000 years ago. It’s been described as the gift of gods, as well as “sinfully dark.” It’s a gift of love and a source of contention. It is a cherished comfort food, appetite suppressor and health remedy. So what chemistry is behind this alluring treat? Join us with Dr. Greg Ziegler as he melds the process and the sensory experience of chocolate!

Download Presentation Slides (available within one week after the webinar)

From Cocoa Buds to Taste Buds – The Chocolate Process and Sensory Experience” A short presentation followed by Q&A with speaker, Dr. Greg Ziegler, Penn State University.

What You Will Learn
  • How chocolate is made.
  • Natural and social history of chocolate consumption.
  • Active chemical constituents of chocolate.
  • Unique sensory attributes of chocolate.
  • And much more…

Webinar Details
Date: Thursday, May 17, 2012
Time: 2:00-3:00 pm ET
Fee: Free

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sci-fi food

Intriguing article on foods from science fiction books and movies:

"ChickieNobs or soylent green, anyone?" 
The Sydney Morning Herald
April 17, 2012
In fact, ever since watching The Jetsons as a kid, I’ve been fascinated by the way ‘science fiction’ is often more science than fiction. Food is one of the writer’s favourite devices, one that immediately illustrates the culture of the time, whether it’s two thousand years in the past, or the future.

And here is a related article:

Blessed are the geeks
The Sydney Morning Herald
April 17, 2012
England's celebrated jelly-makers and architectural foodsmiths Sam Bompas and Harry Parr have seen the future. Not only that, they've cooked it. Working with micronutritionists, biochemists and nanotechnologists, they recently staged a dinner for KitchenAid in London that featured bioluminescent lollipops, insect-protein pasta and ChickieNobs.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Popcorn anyone?

Another ACS food chemistry seminar:

The Chemistry Magic Behind Popcorn

Discoveries in Mexico and Peru suggest that the earliest popcorn parties date back to cave people thousands of years ago. Undoubtedly, in roasting corn over an open fire and quickly collecting the popped kernels, the three-second rule was born. Legend has it that popped corn was first shared with the pilgrims during the first Thanksgiving. In modern times, popcorn has exploded as a favorite snack in the United States and is fast bursting into international fame. Americans consume an estimated 17 billion quarts of the white fluffy stuff every year. How has chemistry aided in making popcorn a favorite treat?
 Love these seminars!!  If you can't make the live date of April 19th, 2012 for this one, the archived version is available about a week later.  
The Q&A is always interesting since you can send in questions too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

That last bite is the best - because it is the last!!

Psychological Science 23(2) 163–165 (2012)
DOI: 10.1177/0956797611427408

The researchers used 5 different flavoured chocolates to see if the test subjects found a difference in the taste of the last one.  The hypothesis was that knowing that something is ending makes it all that much more important to you.  The subjects were given the chocolates randomly and asked to rate the flavours.  When given the fifth one, the subjects were either told that it was the "next one" or the "last one".  When told it was the "last one" about 64% of the subjects rated the last one their favourite.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Scientist reviews some new food science books

Capsule Reviews:

Neurogastronomy by Gordon M. Shepherd
Columbia University Press, December 2011
Why Calories Count by Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim
University of California Press, April 2012
The Kitchen as Laboratory By César Vega, Job Ubbink, and Erik van der Linden, editors
Columbia University Press, January 2012
Fear of Food  by Harvey Levenstein
University of Chicago Press, March 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Miracle fruit decoded

From the February edition of The Scientist
Imagine sucking on a lemon that tastes as sweet as honey, or munching on what you think is a crunchy candy only to discover it’s a pickled onion. Such is the taste-bud trickery experienced at so-called flavor-tripping parties. The secret to the flavorful deceptions is a small red berry from West Africa called miracle fruit, which itself has very little flavor, but can make sour or acidic foods taste extremely sweet when eaten soon after the berry contacts the tongue. So bizarre is the fruit’s effect that just one taste was enough to convince Japanese food scientist Keiko Abe, of the University of Tokyo, to launch into an entirely new area of study.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Flavour - a new journal

Flavour is now looking for submissions!!
Flavour is a peer-reviewed, open access, online journal that publishes interdisciplinary articles on flavour, its generation and perception, and its influence on behaviour and nutrition. We seek articles on the psychophysical, psychological and chemical aspects of flavour as well as those taking brain imaging approaches. We take flavour to be the experience of eating food as mediated through all the senses. Thus we welcome articles that deal with not only taste and aroma, but also chemesthesis, texture and all the senses as they relate to the perception of flavour.
 Sounds like it will create lots of fodder for this blog (pun intended)!!

Egg white chemistry

Here is a cool post from the Smithsonian about meringue:

Felicity's perfect meringue. Photograph: Felicity Cloake
and another one from the Guardian:

And a very detailed description of all aspects of a lemon meringue pie from Procrastibaking:

I never really like the meringue on lemon pie and my mom just folded it into the lemon for lemon chiffon pie instead...yummm...but the same tricks apply to make sure it does not lose its fluff.