"The nostalgic aroma of a Big Mac is a carefully manufactured scent, bottled in some lab just off the New Jersey Turnpike."
Even after years of research on the dangers of fast food, I still find myself snared by the nostalgic smell of a Big Mac. From time to time, I answer that homely tug, the kid in me face-first in two all beef patties, special sauce, onions, cheese, pickles, lettuce on a sesame seed bun, all my research vague and silly while the boy in me revisits some of the most cultivated childhood moments with my father. But then I stumbled onto information that forever changed how I felt about the taste of my beloved Big Mac.
Taste is vital to repeat business. Before modern refrigeration, mothers depended on smell, color and taste to determine whether food was fit for the family supper. Instinctively, we still depend on these senses to feel safe about what we eat.
Most people buy their weekly groceries according to convenience and taste. This is evidenced by the fact that processed food makes up about 90% of all the money Americans spend on food.
The dilemma with processed food is that canning, freezing, dehydrating, super heating and storing all contribute to destroying most of the natural flavors of food, resulting in that “cardboard” taste. So along came the chemical factories to the rescue to try to reproduce the original tastes of the foods. They are a highly secretive industry and will not reveal their clients. After all, they would not want us thinking that the unique taste of a Happy Meal was produced by a scientist in a while lab coat applying few drops of specialized chemicals to your kid’s food, far away from grills and deep fryers. My beloved Big Mac was nothing more than a tired old cow given a high dollar makeover. These masters of disguise are called flavorists.
As much as 90 percent of flavor comes from the aroma of food. Our taste buds can detect up to six different basic tastes; the rest is left up to our noses to fill in the full spectrum of subtle flavors. We will spend a lot of money to experience delicious flavors. Wars have been waged over rare spices, and connoisseurs will pay top prices for a well-aged bottle of wine.
International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) is responsible for creating the distinct personalities of many of the popular name brand products we have come to know, from crackers, breakfast cereals, pet foods, potato chips, all-natural juice drinks, beers, organic soy drinks, to furniture polish, dishwashing detergent, and floor wax. The science behind the scent of your underarm deodorant is basically the same one that puts the flavor in your pop tarts. Don’t be fooled by the label “natural flavor.” There is little or no difference between what is in artificial flavor and natural flavor; both are man-made additives.
The flavor industry is big business. Every year about 10,000 new processed food products will be introduced to consumers and nearly all will need a careful makeover from a flavorist. The nostalgic aroma of a Big Mac is a carefully manufactured scent, bottled in some lab just off the New Jersey Turnpike. Maybe one day we will be able to buy a vial of Big Mac Essence and I could add a few drops to my carrot juice and save on all those calories—a fat-free reminiscence.
Walking into a fast food establishment today holds a completely different feeling for me. I know that the smells that greet me at the door are as real as the plastic framed reproductions hanging on the walls. Unwrapping fancy advertising, pulling off the extra crispy coating, probing below taste-bud appeal; it is easy to expose naked motive: money.
What about a carrot stick? Can motive be detected under the grubby skin of a carrot, or powdery blush of a grape or woody husk of a raw almond? The motive is clear and deliberate. There are hidden treasures in every cell and membrane. The same sun that tanned Adam’s newborn skin has yielded a diversity of crops rich in essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fatty acids, and phytochemicals, to mention only a few. Natural foods, unlike fast foods, give us clean burning fuel to insure vibrant health and disease resistance. Each treasure is a little love letter from the Creator, revealing maternal, tender love, love that can be trusted like a baby suckling on mother’s breast.
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