Last Friday. we skipped out of the office a little early to visit the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. MOFAD, which just opened in 2015, is a unique museum that focuses on educating the public of food history, culture, science, production, and commerce through interesting exhibitions. We had the pleasure of viewing the Flavor: Making It and Faking It, an exhibition which taught us about the building blocks of flavor, the difference between real and fake vanilla, what umami is, how flavor is created through technology.
Flavor is a $25 billion industry. Some flavors are taken from natural sources while others are developed in a lab. One of the best examples of the difference between natural and lab-made flavors is vanilla. Natural vanilla extract is made when the vanilla bean is infused into a mixture of water and alcohol. This can be expensive, but it was soon discovered that that flavor could be simulated for a much cheaper cost. Those bottles of vanilla extract that you find at the grocery store are actually simulated vanilla, a solution containing vanillin as the primary ingredient. We taste tested both flavors, and it's incredible how different the natural and simulated versions are!
We also learned about how taste and smell work together. Below is a photo of the Smell Synth, a device which allow you to compose your own flavor to smell. We had a lot of fun creating our own concoctions, but highly recommend avoiding the dreaded cheesy, vomit, nail polish remover combo.
If you're ever in Brooklyn, be sure to stop by MOFAD, and a special thanks to the MOFAD team for having us!