Monday, August 31, 2009

Do you smell popcorn?...and beef jerky?

My current place of employment is about to become a distant memory as it was recently announced our plant is closing. Once again I am forced to brush off my resume and pound the pavement in hopes landing a a mediocre job, with unrealistic expectations for a pittance for salary. ALL why seeming grateful and eager...

I had an interview with a local flavor company about 3 weeks ago and I have yet to hear back from them (please--don't make me beg for the job, seriously!) I am questioning if I want to go back there on a permanent basis because food science is has a few...drawbacks (read on and find out). I actually have worked for this company twice before as a temp agency person. I worked in the product quality lab for a year in 1991-1992 and in the research division in 2001-2002.

Let me give you a little background in flavor science. All those wonderful smells that smack you in the snoz when you open a bag of cookies, nuke a prepared frozen meal or waft from a freshly popped bag of popcorn are olfactory and organoleptically enhanced. Pretty much unless you pick it from your garden it has been enhanced, say the way Barry Bonds used game enhancing vitamins (ahem…steroids)...LOL

No-I did not just cuss at you in science speak. Olfactory is related to the sense of smell. Organoleptic refers to the senses of taste, color, odor and feel (i.e creamy, grainy, etc..) WARNING…there is a chemistry lesson for the science impaired…proceed with caution…and keep reading because there is a funny anecdote…I PROMISE!

That beefy meaty smell in your Mama C’s beef stroganoff frozen meal is due to spices, herbs and more specifically the actual meat being browned due to half a dozen sugars and amino acids linking up to form proteins through a physical and chemical reaction known as a Maillard Reaction. These components can occur naturally but more often than not are chemically enhanced…ummmm…. there is a reason it is called FLAVOR SCIENCE…

Okay that is all the chemistry most of you can handle…I bet you wished had paid attention class now…HA!…but I digress…

So the 2001 and 2002 I am working as a SAVORY flavor technician (think meaty, beefy, brothy, cooked, grilled type flavors and smells). These are all wonderful smells…IN THEIR FINAL FORM..NOT in a super duper concentrated form. Trust me. I speak from experience. Everyday I came home smelling like a walking, talking doggy treat. Neighborhood animals congregated on my front yard. My animals were always so happy to see me…sniff me…lick my clothes…eat my shoes ... I practically had to use the jaws of life to pry them off of me. Come to think of it, Wally often had a twinkly gleam in eye and was a bit more lovey-dovey when I arrived home…hhmmmmmm…

During this time I was also working at Kohls part-time. Yeah I know, retail at CHRISTMAS!! (That folks is an entirely different blog!) So I would get off work at the flavor company, run to the locker room, try and wash off the meefy (beef+ meaty) smell, change clothes and drive to my 2nd job. Well, one day in particular, I wasn’t scheduled to work at Kohls, so I decided to do a little Christmas shopping of my own. You know go spend my lousy $7.10/ hr + use my 20% employee discount card…Big spender in the house…HEEEEYYYY!

SO I am walking through the store minding my own business when I begin to catch snippets of conversation… “Do you smell that?” “What is that smell?” “”Man I’m hungry!” Then it dawns on me…OH MY GOD…it is me. They smell me! Well not me…the beefy brothy me from working at the stupid flavor!! ACCCKKK! I quickly gather my things and head to the nearest register. I am trying to keep my distance from everyone unless they realize I am the smell-a-nator!.

But by now I have sonar bat hearing and a acutely aware of all the conversations going on around me. Finally it is my turn …YAY..I’m gonna make it out undetected. Maybe not…as the cashier is ringing me up she is making small talk…then she says it…”Do you smell that?” “ I just ate dinner, but I swear I smell beef jerky” …”and popcorn!” I give a little fake uncomfortable laugh and with a red face I lie my ass off.. “Really? I don’t smell anything!” FINALLY --I am home free! I thank her, grab my bags and head out the door.

I’m gonna make it…I’m gonna make it..I’m gonna…ooof…right then and there I get stomach butted by some wayward five yr. old running from his mom. My bags go scattering and he bounces back a foot or so like he just bounced on a super inflatable arm waving wacky man (after all--I do abs of jello!) The mom is apologizing profusely and helping me pick up bags the entire time chastising her kid ---you know the “Johnny, you really should watch where you are going and apologize to the nice lady” through gritted teeth and fake smile when she really means “Johnny you dumb little bastard I am gonna beat the living hell out of you when I get you home” (Ok that is another blog, too!)

I limp out the door and I feel kinda pukey when I hear the kid say..”Mom--that lady smelled like beef jerky and popcorn”

So instead of working at the flavor comapany I can start my own company. I will be the Smell-A-Nator!! Forget smell-o-vision--that is so 1950's. Just rub me down with beef jerky and popcorn. I can stand in front of food displays, restaurants, find lost animals and wayward spouses...This could be the next greatist thing. OMG...I could be the next great thing. Just remember folks you read it ---smelled it here 1st...

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