European Chemistry Congress: I heart food chemistry

I heart food chemistry, and for more than one reason. First of all, it is easy to get into the science when you can immediately relate it to cheese or grapes or Parma ham or something nummy like that. And secondly, it demonstrates how seriously we take the pleasure of eating. Much of food chemistry is concerned with ensuring that when we decide to spend an evening eating bon bons and drinking champagne in the bath our chocolate is not adulterated with inferior cocoa butter fat equivalents and our champagne is actually from Champagne.

Elke Anklam, of the European Community Joint Research Centre in Belgium, gave a nice overview of food authentication this morning, which revealed that despite being armed with electronic noses, chromatography of various kinds, spectroscopy ditto., natural isotope fractioning, and PCR, they still can’t easily tell if olive oil is being cut with hazelnut oil…"even if you can taste it."

Ha ha! So the best and least scientific means of authentication is still the human tongue. That being said, I was recently informed that most people cannot tell red wine from white with their eyes shut. Incredulous, I put it to the test. I shut my eyes and had my companions at dinner hand me glasses. I called the first red, the second white, and, taking a cue from the snickering I heard, the third a mixture of the two. Turns out it was the same glass of red wine all three times. Oh!