Tuesday, October 12, 2010
"What's so fab about it?"
Violet Beauregarde: By gum, it's gum.
Willy Wonka: [happily, but sarcastically] Wrong! It's the most amazing, fabulous, sensational gum in the whole world.
Violet Beauregarde: What's so fab about it?
Willy Wonka: This little piece of gum is a three-course dinner.
Mr. Salt: Bull.
Willy Wonka: No, roast beef. But I haven't got it quite right yet.
So Scientists at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich are using microcapsules (originally developed to provide a way of delivering drugs to specific parts of the digestive system) to make the idea born in Roald Dahl's fantastic imagination a reality. For realz, folks. What's so fab about it? The kid in me says: EVERYTHING. But the critic in me fears that Slugworth is involved. It's probably his kind of corruption that's landed Boston Creme Pie flavored, low-calorie yogurt on the supermarket shelves. Ugh.
Science correspondent Richard Gray for The Telegraph reports:
Some of the capsules could be filled with flavouring for tomato soup that would break open on contact with saliva, while tougher capsules would contain the flavour for roast beef that would break open as the gum is chewed. A final flavour for blueberry pie could be packaged in capsules that require vigorous chewing to burst. Professor Dave Hart, a food scientist at the Institute has already developed a boiled sweet that uses different layers to provide changes in flavour, but he hopes the new technology could help produce more dramatic results.
He said: "There are a number of groups here at the Institute who have been working with these capsules to provide a new way of delivering drugs to the colon, which means they have to be able to survive passing through the rest of the digestive system. Researchers in America have been looking at using these capsules as a way of delivering flavour in food. So using it in this way would allow us to provide new experiences for people when eating. Wonka's fantasy concoction has been nothing but a dream for millions of kids across the world. But science and technology is changing the future of food, and these nanoparticles may hold the answer to creating a three course gourmet gum. Tiny nanostructures within the gum would contain each of the different flavours. These would be broken up and released upon contact with saliva or after a certain amount of chewing – providing a sequential taste explosion as you chew harder."
Microscopic capsules, which measure less than a few millionths of millimetre in size, containing flavours have been pioneered by Professor Tony Dinsmore, from the department of physics at the University of Massachusetts. He developed a technique that allows molecules of particular flavours, vitamins or even living cells to be captured inside the capsules before they can be incorporated into the ingredients for food.
The capsules produce an oily shell around the molecules, preventing them from mixing with other ingredients and so allowing the flavours to be kept separate. Professor Hart, who has been working with the National Science and Engineering Competition to develop new ways of providing different flavours in sweets, hopes this can be adapted to recreate Willy Wonka's famous chewing gum.
And now, a some words of wisdom from the Oompa Loompas:
"Gum chewing's fine when it's once in a while -
It stops you from smoking and brightens your smile.
But it's repulsive, revolting and wrong -
Chewing and chewing alllll daaaaay long!
The wa-ay that a co-oww does!
Oompa. Loompa. Doo-pa-dee da -
Given good manners, you will go far."