By Diane Fresquez
Food meets technological know-how, through Proust.
Diane Fresquez lives in Belgium, and for a few years used to be a distinct correspondent for the Wall highway Journal.
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Additional resources for A Taste of Molecules: In Search of the Secrets of Flavor
Xavier had just bought part of his parents’ land in the Belgian countryside on which he planned to build a meadery. He was delighted to have discovered water under the land and his plans were to dig one hundred meters down to get at it and use it as one of his mead ingredients. To — 54 — test the water, he had recruited a scientist from the Institut Meurice, a research institute in Brussels. She was still working on it but had already found one defect. “There’s too much iron in the water,” Xavier said, which gave it a metallic taste.
Although the study may sound straightforward, there was a lot going on at the molecular level. There were many factors involved, such as the way chemicals can either bond with or repel water, and the fat content of the mother’s milk. Much of this was a mystery, even to Helene. ” I personally found some of the flavor choices used in the experiment a bit bizarre—caraway and licorice, in my mind, are not flavors commonly liked by everyone—but they are widely enjoyed in Denmark. The flavors were chosen by Helene, not for their popularity, but because they represented different, basic molecular structures and are associated with a range of foods we eat—fruits, vegetables, candy and spices.
The brewery has been in operation continuously (except for a brief period during World War I), passed down to Gustaaf ’s granddaughters, and now to An, who, in turn, has a daughter in her twenties involved in the commercial side of the business. The first question I had about brewing was whether it was a craft, a science, or both? “Both,” said An. ” She had a degree in brewing engineering from KaHo Sint-Lieven, a university college in the Belgian city of Ghent, where she had studied chemistry, biochemistry, and microbiology, along with brewery technology.