It may seem a bland, standard flavor, but its history is deliciously rich

Credit: Brett Stevens/Cultura/Getty

According to legends of the indigenous Totonac people of Mexico, in a time before vanilla was cultivated, there once lived the beautiful princess Tzacopontziza of the Totonocopan kingdom. A young prince named Zkatan-Oxga saw her picking flowers for a temple offering one day. Overcome with passion, he whisked her away into the lush forest. But they were stopped by the temple priests and executed on the spot for their transgressions.

After several months, at the place where the two had been killed, the tendrils of a young, fragile green vine grew, reaching many feet tall in a few days. The…


Image by Bru-nO at Pixabay

Foreword: I was thinking the other day that it might be fun to start a conversation about food science in the format of my first book, 150 Food Science Questions Answered.

I’m going to start off with one of the questions and answers that didn’t make the final cut into the book. If you have a food science question you want answered, I’ll do my best to answer it.

Let’s get started with this little co-creative experiment!

Q: Is There a Real Difference Between Vinegars?

The Answer: Yes

The Science: All vinegars are made up of water and between 5…


I never expected to be a published author at this age.

My goal list had me slated to achieve ‘Write a Book’ in five to ten years. I didn’t think I’d be ready to write a book at this time. That had a lot to do with all the projects I had on my plate — plus, I hadn’t yet officially started my official ‘career’ yet, as I was still working on finishing my doctorate.

So basically, I had planned to write a book only after I had some years of life and career experience under my belt.

But eight…


Photo Credit: Pixabay.

You’ve probably been hearing lately that copper has the power to stop viruses.

In the wake of COVID-19, articles and news reports published in the last few weeks by VICE, Fast Company, Insider, BBC, and Arirang News have all touted copper’s near-magical ability to destroy viruses on contact. Others are creating tutorials online on how to make copper-embedded face masks.

And for good reason.

Copper has long been used as an antimicrobial agent since antiquity. Ancient civilizations relied on copper to kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses long before they knew about microorganisms. Egyptian medical texts dating back to 2600 and…


Photo: Maria Teneva/Unsplash

The environmental impact of food waste is staggering.

1.4 billion hectares of land, or 34% of the world’s total agricultural land, is used to grow food that’ll eventually end up in a landfill. Most of the food waste disposed in a landfill decomposes anaerobically and generates the powerful greenhouse gas methane, increasing our carbon footprint. Agriculture accounts for 69% of the world’s water usage, and yet one third of that water is wasted as uneaten food.

Unfortunately, the United States is the largest producer of food waste, with food waste as the leading occupant in American landfills.

In 2017, a…


By Dana Tentis at Pexels

You are what you eat, or so the old adage goes.

But unlike other primates and animals, humans are the only animals who cook their food, which may have more to do with how we became humans in the first place.

Richard Wrangham, Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University and MacArthur Fellow, has proposed the hypothesis that cooking has actually played a bigger role in our ancestral development than first believed. …


By Gratisography at Pexels

The Origins of Modern Food Technology

The overreaching aims of the modern food industry can be generalized as extending the shelf-life of foods using preservation techniques, enhancing the palatability of foods, providing adequate nutrients, and generating profits for both the company and shareholders. In order to reach these aims and evolve over time, much of the technology used by the food industry today was derived from innovative processes at the time. The food industry incorporated these into their own manufacturing processes in response to challenges that arose through the expansion of the modernized food industry throughout the 20th century. …


And why strawberry flavoring doesn’t really taste like strawberries

Photo: designbase/E+/Getty Images

When I get a chance to take my time grocery shopping, I sometimes like to peruse the aisles and read through the ingredient lists of my favorite food brands. At the beginning of the list are the usual suspects—water, sugar, flour, oils, etc. However, every so often, I’ll find an obscure ingredient like lecithin or butylated hydroxyanisole that I have to look up. Over time, I’ve realized that no matter how many ingredients I know or don’t know in a product, the list almost always ends with the same inevitably cryptic words:

Natural Flavors, Artificial Flavors

The terms seem rather……


By Elevate on Unsplash

I regularly drive down to one of adjacent towns near the west side of Madison whenever my wife and I are craving Chinese food. There’s a wonderful place run by a Chinese painter and restaurateur, and I’m always excited to chat with her about the latest and greatest in her artistic life.

After I give her my order, I like to walk outside and look around the little plaza with all its cute shops and interesting cafes.

But one thing always stands out to me on these take-out excursions.

Just across the street is a mustard museum.

The National Mustard…


By icon0.com at Pexels

The ancient Greeks have a legend about mint. Mint, or Minthe, was once a beautiful nymph from the underworld river of Cocytus. She was said to be of nobler form and more beautiful than Persephone, queen of the underworld herself. Hades, the god of the underworld and husband to Persephone, became infatuated by the young river maid after she made an attempt to seduce him. The wife of Hades was enraged by the nymph, and intervened by trampling the girl under her heel into nothing more than dust. …

Bryan Quoc Le, PhD

Author of 150 Food Science Questions Answered | amzn.com/1646118332 | bryanquocle.com

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