A January Spent With January

To be honest, Centre term was somewhat challenging at first because of the adjustment to having class five days in a row. Also, the reading was usually much more than I was used to in one night. I did like the fact that I could focus solely on one class; it helped me to remember and enjoy the content a lot more. Even though I don’t particularly like science too much, I really did enjoy this class. It showed me that science plays a big part in just about everything and should be respected.

I especially enjoyed the cheese lab. I honestly did not know it was that easy to make your own cheese. I thought it was amazing how all those liquid ingredients could be transformed into a solid in such a short time. I also enjoyed doing the cooking video. It took a lot of time and effort but I think it turned out pretty well. Not only did it teach us to work with others but also how to cook an entire meal at the same time. Most people don’t realize how difficult it is to cook an edible meal, let alone manage the timing of each dish. Cooperating with other and learning how to cook are both helpful skills that will be put to good use in the future.

I would advise future students to pay attention in class and take good notes in order to do well on quizzes. (If Dr. Haile goes into motivational speaker mode, get out your recorders or notebooks. She could delve out valuable college survival information. This won’t be on a quiz, but could come in handy!) Also, don’t be afraid to really dive into the course. I was rarely bored and didn’t really “dread” doing the homework because I truly found it interesting. You will find that what you learn will affect your everyday life more than you could have thought possible. I never thought I would be so scared of trans fats! It sounds cliché, but be yourself and have fun. Make your time in college, and especially Centre term, worthwhile. You’re paying to take classes, so you might as well try to enjoy it!

A Tale of Two Bourbons

This past week, it was interesting to see two very different distilleries: one just getting started and the other a world-renown business. Wilderness Trace just opened about two months ago while Maker’s Mark has been a family tradition since for about 60 years. These two distilleries have several commonalities, yet differences due to their experience and change over time.

One obvious difference between the two distilleries was their size. Wilderness Trace had one room for distilling and one for aging, while Maker’s Mark had huge buildings for each step of the process. Maker’s Mark even has multiple aging warehouses located elsewhere separate from the main distillery. Also, Wilderness Trace uses a pot still along with a column still, while Maker’s only uses a five story continuous column still. Wilderness Trace makes bourbon, vodka, and rum. Maker’s Mark solely produces bourbon. I found it interesting that Maker’s ages their bourbon based on taste. I figured since they were such an old and experienced business they would have it down to a tee. But I think it shows their integrity that they take so much pride in getting the taste just right. I’m not sure how long Wilderness Trace will age their bourbon, since they are just getting started with the process. Another minute difference is that Wilderness Trace uses a poplar bung to plug up the hole in the barrel while Maker’s uses walnut.

The stills from Wilderness Trace


Copper stills at Maker’s Mark

Both Wilderness Trace and Maker’s Mark take pride in what they do. You could tell just from listening to them talk that they want to produce the best product to satisfy their customers. Also, both obtain their ingredients locally. Wilderness Trace tries to get theirs solely from Boyle County, while Maker’s Mark tries to keep it within so many miles. I think it’s awesome that these two companies want to support their local economies. The two Kentucky distilleries also each had their own lab where they test their alcohol.

Sucralose? More Like Sucra-LIES

Sucralose is an artificial sweetener most commonly found in Splenda. It is 600 times sweeter than natural sugar and is made by adding three chlorine molecules to sucrose. Splenda is advertised as a “no calorie sweetener”; yet, in actuality, it has about 3.23 calories per pack. This is because Splenda is only partly made up of sucralose and the rest is filler. Since sucralose is so much sweeter, it doesn’t take much to get the sugary taste.


Using Splenda over regular sugar does have a few advantages. Sucralose is better for your teeth and for baking since it doesn’t degrade under intense heat. Also, diabetics can use Splenda as a sugar-substitute. The body does not recognize sucralose as a sugar because the chlorine bonded to the sucrose is unnatural. Thus, the body doesn’t metabolize or digest sucralose. Diabetics can eat Splenda in order to get the sweet taste without having to worry about high blood sugar.

On the other hand, sucralose does have some drawbacks. Eating Splenda can cause weight gain. The body doesn’t recognize the calories because they are disguised by an unnatural substance so the body doesn’t heat up to burn those calories. Basically, the food you eat that includes Splenda will not be metabolized and will be stored as fat. Another detriment of sucralose is that it includes chlorine. The chlorine is bonded covalently in sucralose, which is a stronger bond. All other naturally occurring substances including chlorine are ionically bonded. For example, sodium chloride includes chlorine in an ionic bond; sodium chloride dissolves in water. Chlorine in a covalent bond cannot be found anywhere in nature. A buildup of chlorine in your body can lead to health problems such as stomach ulcers.

Ultimately, Splenda is highly falsely advertised. It may be a sugar substitute but it is unnatural and misleading. I think it is sad that we can’t trust food labels these days.

Click the link below for a spunky continuation of the secrets of sucralose…

Dr. Mercola voices his opinion about the “absurdity” of Splenda

What the Haile…

Honestly, probably the most memorable thing I have learned from this class I learned today. It has nothing to do with the chemistry of food, but it has everything to do with life. Today, Dr. Haile went into rant/motivational speaker mode and talked on learning about learning. She said you probably won’t remember much of what you actually “learned” in school, but you will remember how you learned and how you dealt with different situations. So, I thought it was appropriate that I choose this topic instead of some chemistry fact. Let’s be real, I probably won’t always remember exactly how fermentation works.

If you learn how you learn, you will be set to learn all you can learn. In other words, if you know how you best learn, it will come easier to you the more you do it.

Dr. Haile’s “message” really hit home for me because I always have trouble motivating myself to learn things that I have no desire to learn or I will have no use for in the future (or so I once thought). Dr. Haile pointed out that, in order to succeed, it is important to become an independent, critical thinker who asks questions. Even if you don’t like a certain subject, you can learn other useful life skills like problem solving – no matter what the subject matter.

Asking questions is always the answer. This seems like an oxymoron but I think it’s true. Dr. Haile told us we should always look engaged and ask questions when listening to a speaker. This is not only helpful for classes, but also for future situations like the workforce. Whether it’s a job interview or meeting your future in-laws, good communication skills always come in handy. People will see that you respect them and hopefully treat you likewise in return.

I’m not gonna lie, Dr. Haile’s speech got me HYPE. I was ready to give her a standing O and a couple fist pumps. It motivated me to take responsibility for my own learning and not always rely on teachers to hand it directly to me. Hopefully, this will stick with me. Otherwise, I may have to stop by Dr. Haile’s office for a little pep talk once or twice a semester…

Kentucky Proud Bourbon

The first step to making bourbon is malting, which is when the grain (51% of which must be corn) is ground up and water is added. Although, most distilleries buy grain that has already been malted elsewhere. Next, the grain is milled to further break it down into powder. Then the grain is mashed to extract starches. Enzymes, such as amylase, split the starch. Yeast is added and “propagated” – given food and oxygen so it will grow. During fermentation, the yeast eats the sugars and produces ethanol and carbon dioxide. After it has been fermented, the mixture is distilled; it is separated based on different boiling points. Distillation also increases the proof (the amount of alcohol present) of the liquid and eliminates impurities. Then the alcohol is put into new, charred, oak barrels to age. The spirit gains flavors from the oak as well as from other chemical reactions. It matures for at least two years but usually longer. Kentucky climate is ideal for the aging of bourbon because the seasonal variation allows for optimal expansion and contraction of the barrels. After the desired maturation, the bourbon is filtered to strain out unwanted compounds and finally bottled.

The column still at Wilderness Trace includes several sections that separate the mixture by boiling points

The column still at Wilderness Trace includes several sections that separate the mixture by boiling points

At Wilderness Trace Distillery, I learned that they use both a pot still and a column still to get a higher proof of the spirit. Also, they try to acquire all of their ingredients from Boyle county, and if not, then solely Kentucky. They use a poplar wood plug to keep the barrels from leaking because it forms well to its surroundings. I learned that the “heart” is the part of the spirit that is desired as opposed to the heads and tails. I thought it was very interesting to hear how they started their business and I think it’s great that they are using only locally ingredients to support our community.

Get In the Food Mood

After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, visiting Marksbury Farms, watching Food, Inc., and learning about GMO’s, I feel that I have filled in a lot of the blanks in my knowledge about food. I never knew that food could be so scientific.

Food Inc. could easily scare people off from eating manufactured foods. However, I have just learned to accept the food processing industry the way it is because it’s not going to change any time soon. I do think they treat animals too harshly, but, on the other hand, the animal knows no difference. I believe that animals were put on the Earth for humans to utilize for their needs – which includes being a food source. As Pollan mentioned in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, animals eat each other so why not eat animals? (Pollan 310). I honestly don’t believe that animals have “emotions”. They do feel pain but they don’t think “oh no, I’m going to die.” Humans have always eaten meat so I don’t see why we should stop now. Plus, it’s quite delicious to say the least.

I have also gained more respect for those involved in the food industry, especially after visiting Marksbury Farms. They think about food differently than massive companies in that it is not just a product. They work to satisfy the customers and value quality over quantity. Just hearing how hard they work and how much thought is put into their food made me admire them.

GMO’s could also be another of the lesser known aspects of the food industry. Yet, this has not changed my view of food in a bad way; I think GMO’s are a very interesting advance. I don’t see anything wrong with making foods last longer, for example. If scientists perfect a fool-proof method and guarantee there are no health concerns, there would be endless possibilities for GMO’s

The Circle of AgriCULTURE

I feel that Berry’s arguments for the crises of character, agriculture, and culture are all valid and each relate to the others to support his argument. However, his argument for culture is the strongest to me because it not only shows how culture affects agriculture but also the individual’s character.

According to Google, the definition of culture is “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively”. If you think about it, this has everything to do with agriculture, especially how it has changed over time. “Human intellectual achievement” has developed agriculture into an industrial organization basically. Culture is our way of life, and farming is a way of life for some Americans. We all eat food that has been grown on a farm, so we are taking part in the same culture.

Berry points out, unfortunately, that the “modernization “of agricultural techniques has disintegrated farm culture and communities (Berry 41). In a way, it is sad that some people’s way of life had to change, but change is not always a bad thing. “Modernization” can mean quicker and easier techniques along with more efficient farming equipment. I think it is beneficial for people to be able to adapt to change in order to yield success. However, I agree with Berry when he talks about the dairy farmers being put out of business because “they were inefficient producers” (Berry 42). Just because they are farming on a smaller scale doesn’t mean they’re inefficient.

Berry ties in the matter of culture to his other arguments by saying “everything in the creation is related to everything else. The creation is one; it is a universe, a whole, the parts of which are all turned in to one” (Berry 46). One’s character is therefore affected by the culture in which he/she lives. Agricultural decisions are made by individuals whose character is influenced by culture. Similarly, culture can change agriculture which causes the individual to either judge using their character or change their character. Thus, confusingly enough, the three components affect each other in a circular manner.

Berry, Wendell. (1977). The Unsettling of America.

Can you pass the GMOs, please?

GMOs are produced when a certain gene is taken from one organism and injected into another organism in order to attain a desired trait. For example, if you wanted to be able to breathe underwater you could inject yourself with a gill gene from a fish… (kidding, kidding). But really, it’s like putting a gene from sea turtles that make them live super long into an apple tree to make it live longer (yes, this is also an example I made up, but it is more realistic).

Some radical examples of GMOs

If the topic of GMOs was to come up at my family dinner table, I would express that I honestly don’t see GMOs as a pertinent, pressing issue. It seems to me that they are more beneficial than harmful. GMOs have not been confirmed to be one hundred percent safe, yet it hasn’t been proven that they are dangerous either. Harmful or not, I do think that the consumers have the right to know if GMOs are present in a product they are buying. They shouldn’t have to call the company to find out information; it should simply be printed on the package. I believe we have a right to know what ingredients are in any food we purchase, even if GMOs are included or not.

Creating GMOs is like producing hybrid animals in a way. Humans wanted a species that was smarter than a donkey and more solid and better for working than a horse; thus, the mule was born. If people want a food that tastes like corn and is purple like an eggplant, then I say go for it. The more food the merrier. Until someone proves that GMOs pose a threat to our health or society in general, keep on keepin’ on genetically modifin’.

Mmm kiwi orange

Mmm kiwi orange

The CentreTerm Halftime Report

This class has made me realize how applicable science is to everyday life. I always knew science was important, of course, but I honestly wasn’t overly interested in it. I do appreciate science a lot and those who work in that field. Medical science gives me the willies, so kudos to those people doing surgeries and freaking me out with needles (I understand it’s your job). On the other hand, the science of food is something I can stomach… (pun intended). If I have to learn about science in order to make food taste better or make it better for me, then I’m in!

Since we have been talking about the chemistry behind our food, I have been checking the nutrition facts and ingredients of food that I eat more often than I had before. I never knew that trans-fat was stored in your body forever; that is just scary! Also, I didn’t know that just because a product says “no trans-fat” doesn’t mean that there isn’t trans-fat present. I do not think food labels should be allowed to claim that. Now I look at the ingredients for partially hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup.

Never before had I thought about applying chemistry concepts such as oxidation and reduction to cooking. I didn’t think about how the molecules affected one another; I simply considered what flavors tasted good together. This Centre term class has made me think that more people should be educated about food science. You’d think mothers would be eager to hear of healthier ways to feed their children or how to get the most out of their food when cooking. If the common folk read The Omnivore’s Dilemma they would be shocked and probably change some of their eating habits. Science is still science to me but I have learned to look at it in a new light.

Fast and Furious: Your Fast Food Could Make You Furious

Pollan’s “organic” meal is VERY different from his McDonald’s meal. He spent a week working with the organisms that produced or became his food and saw how they were treated. Also, he prepared the meal himself so he knew exactly where everything came from and was aware of all the present ingredients. The products (I don’t think Salatin would like me calling them products) were not sent away to be processed or have preservatives added to them. No artificial components were added for flavor or appearance. Also, the animals that produced the food were fed grass; the animals that the McDonald’s food originated from were fed corn. Notice I said “originated” when talking about the fast food. Those food products went through several steps and traveled long distances before being eaten. The meal from Salatin’s farm was prepared by the same people in one location and never left the town of Charlottesville before being consumed.

“Grass-fed meat, milk, and eggs contain less total fat and less saturated fats than the same foods from grain-fed animals”; grass-fed foods also contain more omega-3s which aid in the growth and health of brain cells (Pollan 267). So, Pollan’s organic meal was much healthier than the McDonald’s, considering all of Salatin’s animals were fed grass. Not only was this meal healthier, but it also tasted better. Pollan said that “the chicken smelled and tasted exactly like chicken” (Pollan 271). On the other hand, when tasting the McDonald’s chicken nugget, he said all he tasted was salt and it “seemed more like an abstraction than a full-fledged food” (Pollan 112).

Essentially, there is a significant difference between organic and fast food. McDonald’s may be cheaper and quicker, but the taste and health benefits are sacrificed. The idea of knowing where your food comes from is comforting to some people, yet at the same time could also cause a feeling of guilt.