Reflecting on CentreTerm

The Chemistry of Food CentreTerm class has been a great first-year experience. I was real looking forward to the class and I am so glad that I chose it. Learning all about the food we eat is so fascinating. The workload was a little heavy considering all of the reading that was required, but I looked forward to the reading (which is a very rare thing). The reading was very interesting and I learned so much about what is in our food and why certain reactions occur. I highly recommend this class to future first year students!

The most enjoyable part of this class was the field trips. Sadly, I was unable to attend Maker’s Mark, but the others were very fun. Marksbury Farms was a great learning experience. We learned more about small farms and how they are safer and very beneficial. The food was also very delicious! Being able to see the processing of the animals helped clear up a lot of questions that people may have had. We were able to see the process from start to finish and realized that the animals are not conscious during any process. Visiting Wilderness Trace was very helpful because we got an in depth explanation of the chemistry behind the process of making bourbon. We also got to see the process of distillation which helped me completely understand the process.

The most challenging part of this course was the large amount of reading that we had. Omnivore’s Dilemma was a very dense book and was hard to read at times. However, I enjoyed reading and learning so much about the food we eat.

I highly recommend future students to take this course. It is a very fun course and I learned a lot. Future students need to be more engaged and ask more questions to the guest speakers and on field trips.

Kentucky Bourbon

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Maker’s Mark field trip because I had strep throat. ūüôĀ However, visiting Wilderness Trace Distillery and learning about the bourbon making process was very interesting and enjoyable. Comparing the two distilerries may be a little difficult considering that I didn’t go to one, but I will try my best!

Maker’s Mark is considered a small distillery compared to large distilleries such as Jim Beam. Wilderness Trace, however is on a completely different scale of small. In class, Dr. Haile discussed that at Maker’s Mark there wouldn’t be an in depth discussion about the production of bourbon. It was only going to be a tour of the “small” distillery. While visiting Wilderness Trace I found it very helpful that they explained the process of making bourbon before going and looking at the large stills. It showed that they cared about their visitors and wanted them to be informed about what their profession. I’m sure that Maker’s Mark cares about their visitors too, but they probably don’t have enough time to go as in-depth as Wilderness Trace.

There was probably a whole lot more to see at Maker’s Mark than at Wilderness Trace too such as more buildings, stills, and more processes such as selection of the grain. Being able to see the production of the label and the dipping of the bottles into the red wax must have been pretty awesome! ¬†(I’m quite jealous.)

Visiting Wilderness Trace was a great experience. It was pretty cool to be able to see the different steps that goes into making bourbon. Not only was witnessing it interesting, but also understanding why certain things happen during the processes such as fermentation and distillation. I’m very sad that I missed the Maker’s Mark field trip but I will definitely have to visit there very soon!

Methyl Anthranilate

Tanner Clark and I did our flavor presentation on the compound Methyl Anthranilate which mimics grape flavor. This compound is mainly found in grape candies, drinks and medicines.

After doing research on multiple websites, we were unable to find out who discovered methyl anthranilate. However, legend has it that a German scientist accidentally discovered it when he was mixing chemicals in his lab. Methyl Anthranilate was actually one of the first artificial flavors to be discovered.

The chemical formula for Methyl Anthranilate is C8H9NO2. In a liquid state it gives off a clear to pale yellow liquid color. The melting point in 24¬ļC and its boiling point is 256¬ļC. At this compounds full concentration it gives off a fruity grape smell. Even at 25 ppm, it still has a sweet, fruity concord grape smell. Methyl Anthranilate is classified as an ester which gives off a very strong odor.

There are many uses for Methyl Anthranilate some of which we are aware of such as medicines, candies and drinks. Kool-aid, blow-pops, and grape soda all have methyl anthranilate present in them. It is used in several different types of children’s cold medicine because it tastes so good. As children we are not going to want to drink medicine that it very bitter so flavoring is added. One of the uses of methyl anthranilate that we were not aware of prior to this presentation was that the compound it used in bird repellant. The compound it applied to the bird or a specific area to get rid of them. What was interesting was that it was not harmful to the birds or the surrounding organisms. The bird repellant is used to protect corn fields, wheat fields, sunflowers, rice and even gold courses.

Methyl Anthranilate naturally occurs in grapes and is the primary component of the artificial apple flavoring. The compound is also secreted from the musk glands of foxes and dogs to mark their territory or to look for a mate.

There are no concerns regarding Methyl Anthranilate. The FDA lists this compound as GRAS or Generally Regarded As Safe. It is also non allergenic meaning that nobody is really allergic to it.

All Corn Everything

The Chemistry of Foods class has been a very enjoyable course for me. Understanding what we consume and the chemistry behind it all has simply amazed me. This class has helped strike my interest in a possible career which dietetics and human nutrition. I look forward to coming to class everyday to learn knew things about food. I’ve learned why eggs are a crucial component of countless recipes, how gluten helps hold breads together and how GMO’s are not necessarily a bad thing, but that they are in all of our produce products. The one thing that I will without a doubt remember is that corn is literally in EVERYTHING we eat!

Michael Pollan explained it very well in¬†The Omnivore’s Dilemma.¬†He we aren’t only what we eat, but we are what our eat, eats. We eat a steak which comes from a cow that is fed corn all of its life. I have never really thought of the food we eat into that perspective before. While eating a juicy steak from Longhorn, it never occurred to me that we were technically eating corn. It is somewhat disturbing to know that corn is in everything we eat, but I am not going to change my eating habits.¬†We also learned in class and at Wilderness Trace Distillery that corn is used to produce alcohol. ¬†The starches in the grain are broken down to form sugars which are converted into alcohol.

After learning more about corn I now have a greater appreciation for the production of the plant. There is such a high demand for corn in today’s society and I now understand why. It is pretty cool to know that my dad helps in the production of the great plant that we use every single day.

Producing Bourbon

The past few days we have been discussing the production of bourbon. Dr.¬†Demoranville’s class came and informed us about the production of bourbon, and we also visited Wilderness Trace Distillery and saw exactly how bourbon, rum and vodka were made. The process of making bourbon is fairly extensive. There are several steps that must be followed in order to produce the perfect batch of flavorful bourbon.

Step 1: Malting is the first step in the production of bourbon. The grain must be chosen during this process, whether that is corn, wheat or rye. However, in order to be considered bourbon, the grain mixture must be at least 51% of corn or higher. Next, the grains go through a steeping process which consists of three cycles of the grain soaked in water and dried. Steeping the grains speeds up the process of seed germination which will release the starches in the seeds. Finally, kilning takes away the moisture in the seeds.

Step 2: Milling is the second step in bourbon making. This process involved the seeds being grinded up into a fine powder to open up the grain skin then stored. The consistency of the grain after this process should be a fine powder like substance.

Step 3: Mashing is the third step. Mashing involves the extraction of all starches present in the milled grain. Starches are made up of sugars. Mashing is process where the starches are converted into sugars which will eventually convert into alcohol in later steps.

Step 4: Fermentation is the fourth step. Fermentation is the process where yeast is added to the mixture. The yeast consumes the sugars (that were once starches) and converts them into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Step 5: Distillation. Distillation is the action of separating the ethanol and water. The alcohol is extracted from the top while the water and remaining of grain come out of the bottom of the still. Distillation alters the proof of the alcohol by constantly lowering it. The proof of an alcoholic beverage is the percent of alcohol in the drink times two.

Step 6: Aging. The longest process of making bourbon is aging. Aging is when the bourbon sits in charred white oak barrels for many years. The bourbon is stored in charred, white oak barrels. The white oak barrels are a very crucial component in making bourbon. These specific barrels are used because they expand and contract during the winter and summer seasons and allow the bourbon to absorb all of the flavors.

Step 7: After the bourbon has been aged to the producers desire, it is then put into bottles and ready to be sold!

While visiting Wilderness Trace Distillery, I learned that copper stills are very important because they react with the sulfide in the bourbon. Without the copper, bourbon would give off a gassy smell which is very unpleasant to consumers. I also learned that Kentucky is a great place for making bourbon because of the hot summers and cold winters. Hot summers and cold winters help add flavor to bourbon because as the barrels condense and expand, the liquid is able to soak up the yummy flavors.

The Food We Eat: Before and After

During the course we have learned about the food we eat by reading The Omnivore’s¬†Dilemma,¬†watching¬†Food Inc, and learning about Genetically Modified Organisms. Now that I have been informed about the food we eat through these materials, I am now more aware of the things that we put into our body. Growing up, I have always enjoyed cooking with my grandmother and mother. This class has allowed me to not only cook food such as mozzarella cheese, deviled eggs and bread, but I am able to understand the chemistry behind the food.

Reading¬†The Omnivore’s Dilemma¬†was a complete eye opener. The amount of corn that we consume on a daily basis is completely unreal. Who knew that it was in our crackers, steaks, and cosmetic supplies! We simply can not escape the use of corn. There is such a high demand for it because it is literally in everything we eat and our things that are not food products.

After watching Food Inc, I was somewhat appalled by the way Monsanto treats their customers. There have been instances back home where farmers have had to pay a large sum of money to the company because they kept their seed. I disagreed with parts of the movie that referred to the processing plants. During my senior year of high school, I took an animal science class and learned about processing plants. They are not disgusting and crawling with bacteria and diseases like everyone thinks. This movie is only telling the public half of the information. When slaughtering the animals and processing the food, workers clean their knives in scalding water after every single cut to kill any bacteria. Yes, animals are not going to be the cleanest things in the world but workers wash the meat several times and inspect the meat to make sure it is clean.

Learning about GMO’s really interested me. There are people who frown upon the use of them but there is no evidence supporting that they are unhealthy for human consumption. I plan on continuing to eat them and I encourage others to get informed about them.

 

Wendell Berry’s Crisis

In The Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry expresses his three arguments for the crisis that is occurring in America. These arguments were character, agriculture and culture. I personally could relate the most with the crisis of agriculture due to the fact that I have not only lived on a farm, but I have also grown up in an agriculture-based community. Farming is the number one occupation in Todd County, Kentucky.

Berry states that, “the best farming requires a farmer-a husbandman, a nurturer- not a technician or businessman” (Berry, 45). I disagree with parts of this statement. Berry is correct when he says that a farming requires a nurturer because they have to tend to their crops, spray them to protect them from disease, and make sure they do not have any nutrient deficiencies. I disagree with his statement when he says that farmers are not businessman. Farmers have to be good businessman in order to keep their farm running. Keeping up with loans and expenses is very important when keeping up with a farm. Growing up in a agriculture-based community, there have been families that have had to sell their land because they were not smart with their spending habits. My father graduated from the University of Kentucky with a major in Ag-Econ and a minor in Business. A farm is a business just like running an insurance business. A farmer not only has to tend to their crops, but they also have to tend to the business side as well.

I also disagree with his statements on how large scale farming isn’t beneficial to America. The demand for crops in our world today is high and will continue to rise and time goes on. ¬†Due to the fact that less than 5% of the world are farmers, it takes industrialized farms to provide the other 95% of the world with food on a regular basis.

GMO’s

If the discussion of Genetically Modified Organisms came up at the dinner table at the Fox house, it wouldn’t be a big surprise considering that our farm uses them in our corn and soybeans. My opinion of them would deb very similar to my dads. In fact, he would know more about them than I would.

Excluding my dad, I would tell the rest of my family that GMO’s are beneficial and safe for the public to consume. There is no evidence that proves genetically modified organisms are harmful to us. They are not only harmful to us, they help the soil too. Genetically modified corn and soybeans don’t need pesticides and insecticides to protect them. So the use of these harmful chemicals is not required. This would also benefit farmers because they would save money. The pesticides were very harmful to the soil because it was hard to break down and they also killed everything around them not just the pests. Insecticides were harmful to household pets, birds and insects that were beneficial to the corn and soybeans.

The use of GMO’s has enabled farmers to produce more crops to feed the constantly growing population of not only the United States, but also the rest of the world. Without these genetically modified plants, there would not be enough corn or soybeans to support the world population.

My family and myself are still going to continue to eat foods that have been genetically modified. The plants are able to withstand certain conditions, stay fresh longer and are not harmful to consume. So we will not think twice about not only growing genetically modified corn and soybeans, but also eating the delicious and safe food that is produced. People who are against the production and consumption of GMO’s need to do further research and understand that they are safe and still delicious!

 

 

 

 

The Chemistry of Food Thus Far

Signing up for CentreTerm classes, The Chemistry of Food was my number one choice primarily because I really enjoy cooking. I also chose this class because I haven’t had a chemistry class since my sophomore year of high school, so it was logical for me to brush up on my chemistry before the spring semester. Ever since elementary school, science has always fascinated me. My mom is a biology teacher at a local high school so growing up I was very interested in all of the experiments that she did with her classes. My future plans are to pursue a career relating to science. I have always said that I wanted to become a physical therapist, but after taking this class I’m not so sure. Science is definitely the subject that I want to major in, but instead of physical therapy, dietetics and human nutrition strikes my interest.

Cooking has always been enjoyable for me. Growing up in the kitchen cooking with my mother and grandmother has taught me a thing or two about cooking. This class has done nothing but raise my interest on the chemistry of our food. Some of the things that we have learned such as making whipped cream I already knew how to do. However, I did not know how or why the food changes or the proteins denature.

I have learned so many things about the food that we eat in such a short amount of time and I look forward to going to class every day. The amount of work that we have in this class isn’t too heavy compared to others but it is time consuming. I do not mind reading¬†Omnivores Delimma¬†or¬†Culinary Reactions¬†because I learn something new every time I open the books. After taking this class, not only will I be able to cook better, but I will also understand why the chemical reactions are occurring.

The Meal is in the Eye of the Beholder

In the beginning of chapter 14, Michael Pollan explains his preparation of his dinner that night after spending his day on the farm. Freshly slaughtered chicken, fresh eggs, sweet corn, rocket and a chocolate souffl√© were on the menu. The controversial question is whether or not this meal is different that a meal at McDonald’s. Pollan seems to believe that it is much better than McDonald’s due to the fact that it was grown on a nearby farm. However, this section of the book is a bit hypocritical to that of the first section. Michael Pollan stated that not only we are what we eat, but we are what our eat eats, too. I wonder what that could possibly be? CORN. So why wouldn’t a meal at McDonald’s be equivalent to that of a meal grown locally if they are both basically made of corn?

I agree and disagree with the two meals being different. The meals are different due to the fact that the foods are prepared differently. McDonalds will serve your choice of fried chicken or grilled chicken that probably has been processed and frozen for a period of time. The chicken that Pollan prepares for his friends was locally grown and freshly slaughtered. He grilled his chicken with twigs from an apple tree and spices. The eggs he brought home were recently hatched and were Polyface eggs. The eggs that are served to customers at McDonalds are most likely not very fresh due to the traveling and distribution of eggs to McDonald’s all over the country.

Pollan explains that Brillat-Savarin write that in¬†The Physiology of Taste, “each guests eats steadily, without speaking or paying attention to anything which may be said” (Pollan, 271). ¬†On page 272, Pollan says that “In the same way that the raw becomes cooked, eating becomes dining.” I believe that these statements aid the distinction between the two meals even further. The meal that Pollan concocted was the definition of dining. Sitting around the dinner table with friends and family, sharing the good and bad that occurred during their day, and eating delicious homegrown food. I can’t say the same for a meal at McDonald’s. From past experiences, ordering as a family always results in someone becoming upset because either their order was wrong, no straws, no napkins or no dipping sauces for the “juicy, tender and irresistible” chicken tenders.

Nonetheless, I still agree that the two meals are the same. Referring back to our previous reading assignment in¬†The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan states that we are what our eat eats. So based on recently acquired knowledge, we are simply eating corn in numerous forms. Fried chicken, grilled chicken, poached eggs, egg whites, you name it. We are constantly consuming corn whether we are aware of it or not.

An opinion on this topic is derived by how you look at it. Physically, the two meals are totally different. One is served through a drive-thru window and eaten while driving and avoiding spilling it all over yourself  and the other is served at the dinner table with family and friends. Chemically, they are very similar because they all have a common ingredient, corn.

Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.