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June 8, 2015 Meeting

May 28, 2015

The Experimental Cuisine Collective in partnership with Culinary Historians of New York Presents

“Making It Delicious: Flavor Science and the Industrialization of Food in the U.S.” with Nadia Berenstein

Grab any item off the shelf of a grocery store, and you’re almost certain to find some variation of the words, “contains natural and artificial flavors” on the package. What are these flavors, where do they come from, and what makes some of them “natural” and others not? Flavor additives are inescapable in our food system, but just as their components are often mysterious or mischaracterized, the history of these specialty chemicals remains largely untold.

Nadia Berenstein will examine how chemical additives designed to imitate, enhance, and improve flavor made their way into the U.S. food supply from the beginning of the twentieth century to the 1950s, telling the stories of the people and companies who made flavors, the food manufacturers who used them, and the people who consumed them. Along the way, she will consider how scientific and technological knowledge about flavor and its chemical and sensory properties reshaped scientific, legal, and cultural meanings of “pure,” “natural,” and “artificial” in the first half of the twentieth century, transforming the food we eat and the ways we experience it.

A reception will precede the talk, and a tasting of foods flavored artificially and naturally will be passed during the talk.

Nadia Berenstein is a doctoral candidate in the department of History & Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. A 2014-2015 Haas Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, she is currently completing a dissertation about the history of flavor science in the United States. She holds a BA from Harvard College and an MA from New York University. A guest on the most recent episode of the Gastropod podcast, her blog, “Flavor Added,” is:

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