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Monday, December 12, 2011

Lingering Flavors ... Emulsifiers & Stabilizers

You can file this one in the random thoughts file ;-)

Think about foods you tend to overeat once you have some.  Nuts come to mind.  They are usually salted, and something about the yummy nut flavor mixed with the salt seems to stay on the tongue longer.  It lingers.  I know that if I'm having cashews (yes, I know, not technically a nut) I want more and more and more if there is a ready supply of more.  So I tend to grab nuts, when I do, in single serve packets or on the way out the door.  If I have them in the house, I take a handful or whatever from the kitchen and go eat in another room.  But when that handful is done, while that flavor persists in my mouth, I always want more, and it's not hunger or craving or any desire to binge.  It seems to be the lingering flavor.  (Brushing one's teeth helps with this big time!)


So I was thinking about something else the other day.  It's soup/stew season here and I make bone broth soups/stews and slow cooked fatty cuts like chuck and pork butt.  When I make these, even though I take out any large visible fat chunks, there's a lot that only partially renders out when cooking.  This separates out in the soup/stew.  I chill mine in those large quart containers like you get soup in at the Chinese restaurant and ... skim that fat off the top.  Not because I'm fat phobic, but because I just don't like greasy soup.  I tend to think my creations are rather lower if not outright low in fat by the time I'm done with them, though nowhere near the watery yuck that you get out of a can for low fat soups.  These are hearty soups, one small bowl and I'm good for hours on end.   Even if you were to thicken them before skimming, the fat will separate out when reheated.   Now next time you're in the store go read the nutritional info on some of the hearty canned soups, stews and chili.  Fatty!  How can there be all that fat in there w/o it being a greasy mess?

Emulsifiers and stabilizers, that's how.  Simply put, an emulsifier is a molecule that can attach to both oil and water molecules.  Lecithin is the natural emulsifier in egg yolks, and it is largely responsible for mayo being one phase.  Without that, no matter how finely you drizzled oil into water, no matter how fast you blended the mess, the oil and water would eventually separate.  But mayo?  Unless you leave the jar out in a warm room for a long while, it stays mayo.  How about creamy sauces?  I admit to being an Alfredo/carbonarra lover, and one of my favorite cheats is to get that from one of a few restaurants in the area.  We've made our own a few times too.  When you reheat these dishes a huge amount of oil separates from the sauce.  But you can buy an Alfredo in a jar that doesn't do that when you heat it up.  Why?  Something in it keeps it "stable".  

The reality is that processed/prepared foods are full of stabilizers and such to keep them from turning into greasy inedible messes when reheated.  And the fat is really what carries a lot of the flavors in these foods.  So I think about our tongues and mouths and that's a watery environment.  Do you suppose those emulsifiers and stabilizers help these foods coat our tongues and stick around a little longer with their attached flavors?  Maybe!  

15 comments:

perishedcore said...

I hadn't thought about that, but it seems to be very logical. Thanks

aek

bentleyj74 said...

"Do you suppose those emulsifiers and stabilizers help these foods coat our tongues and stick around a little longer with their attached flavors? Maybe!"


I don't know but they for sure were the only way I could "get through" eating foods that otherwise tend to gross me out.

Paul Jaminet said...

Good idea. Possible contrary evidence: In the 60 Minutes Flavorists episode one of the Givaudin experts says that they try to give a powerful punch but then eliminate any lingering aftertaste, so that you have to eat more to get the taste back.

Sanjeev said...

The formulas need to be tuned, but I would think lingering taste is not something they go for.

Fast onset and exit is I think a characteristic they pursue so food will go well with other foods.

they're trying to control the phenomenon of your nervous system ignoring a non-changing stimulus.

If the taste of your entree disappears quickly you won't habituate to it as well over the course of a meal. If a swig of pepsi (a vertable hammer of taste, especially when chilled) or wine removes the entree's taste completely it can come back as a hammer with the next bite.

I would tend to think emulsifiers clear taste out better.

Think capsaicin and soap. Capsaicin (the hot of hot peppers) sticks to your tongue because its fat soluble portion's stuck on fatty parts of your tongue's surface. Capsaicin is not soluble in water so water won't carry it away.

Milk removes capsaicin because milk has some natural surfactants and lots of fat (for the capsaicin to dissolve into). Soap (basically just an emulsifier) is supposed to be good for hot peppers too.

So with food that's full of emulsifiers/surfactants I think the taste easily washes off the tongue.

fast onset and disappearance is just my opinion/theory - formulas could just as easily be manipulated to deliver chemicals onto the tongue and leave them there.

I bet it's been focus-grouped to death

Sanjeev said...

Also, while they need to inculcate a drive, they canNOT do it within one meal.

Economically they (especially restaurants) can't garner the reputation of leaving eaters hungry at a meal's end, whether (for non-high-end places) it's with small portions or inciting/stimulating/insulting/provoking brain regions.

Sarah Barracuda said...

Maybe there also needs to be a compromise between eliminating aftertastes so you want more immediately afterwards, and 'mouthfeel'. It's possible that desiring a certain 'mouthfeel' is in part a conditioned response, but probably not completely. It would just be strange if a piece of good chocolate, instead of gradually melting in the mouth, kind of just disappeared (some batches of Lindt 90% do this). While fat does 'carry' flavors, I think we also expect (learned or not) foods that taste rich to last on the tongue--sort of like an 'ahhh...!' response.

Also, what to make of commercial chips? They have that magic flavor dust that performs a hit-and-run on your senses and makes you scrabble for more, but there's always that magic dust residue on your tongue (literally--e.g., cheetohs). Maybe there's just enough residue for your senses to 'remember' how good it (just) felt, but not enough to savor--so you have just gotta reach for more.

Sarah Barracuda said...

@Sanjeev - I knew that milk helps with spicy foods, but didn't know it was because of surfactant content. So I suppose next time someone feeds me a too-spicy meal and I swear like a bloody pirate, their washing my mouth out with soap would serve two purposes ;)

Sanjeev said...

pure oils (no surfactants) work but with the surfactants the relief's faster.

Quarrel said...

Just to be a pedant, but neither Carbonara nor Alfredo in a real Italian sense contain cream (they're eggs, pecorino, bacon & black pepper / parmesan & butter respectively). The originals taste fantastic to me :)

However, yes, I've been to the US and seen your creamy versions. Not to my taste at all :(

That said, both are big on the emulsified fat lingering taste effect either way.


--Q

Sanjeev said...

> It's possible that desiring a certain 'mouthfeel' is in part a conditioned response,
_________
Sarah, It's interesting that you concentrate on mouthfeel for chocolate and flavour for potato chips. I'm the complete opposite ... I (consciously believe I) eat chocolate for the flavour and potato chips for the mouth feel

I suspect that the variances in texture (the smoothness of some pastas, the other smoothness of chocolate, the chewiness of taffees and gums, the crunchiness chips and caramels , when fully understood will be an intimate part of any food reward theory.

As will texture changes within a meal, and what I alluded to above, the "hammer" like effect of cold sweet drinks during a mostly hot meal (soups and entrees).

Cold, cold pepsi with salt and vinegar potato chips is INCREDIBLY stimulating to me, and some variations like salt & vinegar poutine with really cold, tart orange juice.

Sarah Barracuda said...

@Sanjeev - Hmm, to clarify, I think both flavor and texture are eminently important in the experience of chocolate. That's why Lindt 90% fails on some many levels--it not only has a chalky texture, but also has a woefully flat flavor. (I can't believe it's passed off as fine European chocolate, but maybe it's excusable because many batches are made in New Hampshire.)

"I (consciously believe I) eat chocolate for the flavour." I have a difficult time believing this. Can you really eat fat-free chocolate syrup by the spoonful, or a fat-free chocolate ice pop (yes, I grant these are made from second-rate cocoa components), and say it's genuinely as good as a piece of (even mediocre) chocolate?

I think there's this weird cognitive component to FR, in that people WANT, e.g., the fat-free choco ice pop to taste 'every bit as good as' the real thing (e.g., premium full-fat choco ice cream)...and then when each taste of the inferior fat-free version consistently disappoints, they keep going back because they still semi-expect their expectation of deliciousness to be fulfilled. (Like, "It's SUPPOSED to taste better than this; wait, can we go back and make SURE it doesn't taste better...?") Hence the notion of 'better one small scoop of Haagen-Dazs, rather than half the carton of fat-free frozen yoghurt'--which seems on its face to contradict the FRH, but perhaps doesn't really at all.

Kurt G. Harris MD said...

@Sarah

"I think there's this weird cognitive component to FR, in that people WANT, e.g., the fat-free choco ice pop to taste 'every bit as good as' the real thing (e.g., premium full-fat choco ice cream)...and then when each taste of the inferior fat-free version consistently disappoints, they keep going back because they still semi-expect their expectation of deliciousness to be fulfilled. (Like, "It's SUPPOSED to taste better than this; wait, can we go back and make SURE it doesn't taste better...?""

You've described what I call the Pringles effect. I view palatability vs FR as forming an inverse U-curve. Palatability must encourage consumption without the flavor being so "rich" that you are satisfied by it. Hence, the MOST rewarding foods would likely not be the tastiest in a single bite sampling test.

@Paul

That quote by the GIvaudin flavorist fits the Pringles effect perfectly and explains why palatability is a component of FR but not necessarily linearly ralted to it.

Sarah Barracuda said...

@Kurt - Hmmm...what I was thinking of above was foods that might be considered 'inferior goods' (where the budget constraint is calories rather than disposable income)--but which don't result in lower total consumption because people keep trying to reach some (unreachable) cognitively-determined threshold of 'yum'.

I speculate that for healthful whole foods, palatability and reward are linearly related up to a point--e.g., when we enter the terroir of paleo lemon bars?--beyond which reward is an exponential function of palatability. (Or if you like, log(reward) vs. palatability grows slowly till we reach the point of hyperpalatability, after which log(reward) is linearly increasing.)

I imagine the problem with the infamous lemon bars, unlike with Pringles, isn't that their taste falls short--more like they really are so scrumptious that one goes bonkers on them. (Have you ever heard a girl describe a food experience in explicit sexual terms? It's extremely off-putting, but it actually happens with 'gourmet' food that's recorded into 'food porn'.)

Can't even begin to imagine what the reward vs. palatability curve would look like for frankenfoods. Mostly because palatability is all over the place, but they are all magically rewarding. Maybe your inverse U would apply here, if the plot isn't plain chaos. (In any case, armchair theorizing is so much more fun than what Stephan's colleagues have to do, collecting all the data and identifying biochem mechanisms and all!)

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