Monday, June 21, 2010

Natural Flavor

Dinner time at the Morgan household can be quite the interesting experience. Aside from talking about the day's events, we'll talk about any number of things. One thing I love to do is to "acquaint" my four young daughters with the music of the 80's. YouTube is an amazing tool for such an activity. It's something else to see your seven year old daughter do "The Safety Dance."
There are other times when the kids will ask questions like "Why does it say 'Tomato' Ketchup? Are there other kinds?" So, we'll look it up. And yes, there are other types. One was found was "Banana Ketchup." Then that leads to the question, "Why is it called 'Yellow' Mustard? Are there other kinds?" The answer? Yes. Mustard can be brown. Heck, with a little food coloring, it can be any color you want.
But we aren't content to leave things there. Next, we'll investigate the ingredients of various foods. Doing this led to a shocking and somewhat disturbing discovery: Natural Flavor. What the heck is Natural Flavor and why is it in so many different foods?
For example, I randomly sampled items from my fridge and pantry and these are the things that I found contained this mysterious Natural Flavor: Apple / Cranberry juice, spray butter, mixed berry yogurt, salsa, maple syrup, mayo, mustard (yellow), ketchup (tomato), animal crackers, hot cocoa mix, tomato soup, chocolate frosting, root beer, granola bars, pudding and macaroni & cheese. Whoever invented this Natural Flavor must be a bazillionare--I mean it is in everything!
But as odd as Natural Flavor is, there is something even stranger: Artificial Flavor. How can flavor be artificial? After all, it has to be made from something on the Earth, right? Is it just a combo of two Natural Flavors? Does that mean if I mix chocolate and peanut butter together, I've created an Artificial Flavor? One thing I know for sure, Natural Flavor and Artificial Flavor are not opposites. Of the items listed above, several of them had both Natural and Artificial Flavor. (Maple syrup, hot cocoa mix, chocolate frosting, root beer and strangely enough, granola bars) If they were opposites, wouldn't they just cancel each other out? Or if it is like matter and anti-matter, wouldn't having both ingredients in the same product be dangerous?
However, of all the items I sampled, there are two that were the most disquieting: hot dogs and bologna. Neither of these had Natural nor Artificial Flavor--but both of them did share a common ingredient: something simply called "Flavor". And thank goodness they did! Can you imagine how they would taste without "Flavor?"

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