Fat and the search for flavor

Farm Forum

Flavor. When we think about food, it’s the anticipation of the flavor that makes us salivate. When people describe barbecue ribs, fresh asparagus, fried chicken, enchiladas, fresh tomatoes, it sets our minds to thinking about those wonderful expressions of taste.

Choices are good. Sometimes, we are driven to eat by the fat in the foods. Having the opportunity to choose too many high-fat foods is a problem that plagues some of us.

I’ve struggled with my weight for many years and tried many diets. I grew up learning about good nutrition at home and through our 4-H program. When I’ve dieted, the programs I’ve chosen have stressed portion control and good choices. But still I succumb to those sirens of flavor that call my name.

I get in trouble when I’m offered some of those foods that are chockfull of flavor such as rhubarb custard pie (full of sugar and cream), pizza (with lots of cheese) and chocolate anything. Those delicacies have nothing to do with nutrition. Food speaks to me in a language laced with flavor crystals.

In reading stories about space travel, it always amazed me that people could survive on food from tubes or packets of “flavored” nutrition. I never thought that would be possible. The experience of biting into a warm slice of bread or tasting an artfully crafted hotdish elicits good feelings. Mmmmm.

Currently, I’m successfully losing some weight under a doctor- approved program that uses shakes and protein bars along with lean meats and lots and lots of vegetables. I never thought I would be able to exist on such a regime.

As I now start my day with a chocolate mint shake, and I’ve found it is possible to limit my consumption of fats and carbohydrates. But I know it won’t be forever. Taking that into account, the plan has started adding in additional “real” food to move me to a normal diet, laced with healthy choices.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles. The nation seems to have an obsession with fats, including all things associated with bacon.

In my recent interview with Donn Nelson about raising Mangalitsa hogs, one of the reasons Nelson chose this type of pork was for the incredible flavor. The animals with Hungarian roots were bred to put on layers of fat. Nelson’s product is meant to fill a niche market, especially for those who have the desire for more fat in their pork. It will take a while for Nelson to move some of those animals to market, but it will be fun to eventually try some of the products.

Ironically, I was sent a book at work that explores the quest for flavor through the million-dollar flavor industry. The book, “The Dorito Effect” by Mark Schatzker, explores why we crave items such as chips and soft drinks. In the pages, he details the search for flavor and the changes made in growing food in America.

In 1962, one of the marketing people from Frito-Lay latched on to the crunch and taste of tortilla chips.

That taste led the manager to take the ‘baked then fried’ pieces of cornmeal, add flavors to them and create an explosion of the brand that currently lists 113 different types of Doritos. Doritos means “little bits of gold” in Spanish, and it turned into a gold mine for the company.

I admit, I am one of those members of the American public that got hooked with the 15-cent bag of Doritos in the 1960s. The industry wants to continue that trend, offering tantalizing test trials of Chocolate Chipotle Bacon, Caribbean Citrus Jerk, and X013D Tortilla Chips.

Schatzker says the “The Dorito Effect” is what happens when food gets blander and flavor technology gets better. He asserts that choices of meats and vegetables have fewer flavors, which is why there is a need to add flavorings that will tease the palate to continue to entice people to buy the snacks and contribute to obesity.

The snack industry makes use of a lot of agricultural products. According to the America’s Greatest Brands website (, 15 million pounds of cheese and more than 1 billion pounds of corn are used to produce a year’s worth of Doritos chips. Three ears of corn go into every bag of the chips. All the cheese and dairy products used to make the chips in the United States come from the equivalent of 10,000 cows.

I haven’t finished Schatzker’s book, but I do know that getting hooked on flavors can lead to having just one more of almost anything. The choices we make in what we eat and the products we produce are under attack each day. Whether it’s a powdered drink, a piece of bacon or a Dorito chip, understanding the industry and reading about other opinions is an important part of our experience.

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