If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding…

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As Stuart mentioned in his last post, I’ve been in the London office all week. I always have a great time when I’m in London (where else can you see Patrick Swayze in ‘Guys and Dolls’?) and wish I could travel here more frequently…

There’s a large selection of flavored potato chips/crisps here – my sister is a vegetarian, so I always try to bring her back the meatiest or fishiest flavor I can find (I’ve given her ‘Roast Minted Lamb’ and ‘Prawn Cocktail’ in the past). But this time I think I’ve outdone myself: I noticed a bag of ‘Roast Ox’ flavored crisps in the building’s vending machine…

A few minutes and 50 pence later, I went over to Stuart’s desk to show him my prize – but a closer look at the packaging revealed that the crisps were vegetarian-friendly. How could this happen? What vegetable products could be used to re-create the complex flavors (or flavours) that one would normally associate with a roasted ox?

Stuart and I scanned the ingredients for more information:

Potatoes, Sunflower Oil, Roast Ox Flavour (Salt, Hydrolysed Soya Protein, Sugar, Lactose (from milk), Yeast Extract Powder, Wheat Flour, Flavour Enhancer: Monosodium Glutamate, Dried Yeast Powder, Onion Powder, Flavourings, Acidity Regulator: Sodium Diacetate, Spice Extracts, Anti-caking Agents: Silicon Dioxide & Calcium Phosphates, Herb Extracts, Garlic Powder, Colour: Paprika Extract)

So which chemical (or combination of chemicals) tastes/taste like ox? Are there any food and flavor chemists out there who can tell us more?


Joshua Finkelstein (Senior Editor, Nature)