Does taste matter most?

Vanilla plant at Villa Vanilla, Costa Rica

Vanilla plant at Villa Vanilla, Costa Rica

Recently, I made an emergency run to a local market because we ran out of vanilla extract, used in some of our recipes.  We use natural ingredients, so our only option is Pure Vanilla.  As I reached for the bottle, a woman standing next to me with two small children pointed to the imitation vanilla flavor and asked “What’s the difference between this one and that one?” “Well,” I said, “Look at the ingredients.”

The artificial product contained water, sugar, caramel color, propylene glycol, ethyl vanillin, and artificial flavor.  The natural extract had only organic vanilla bean extractives, water and organic alcohol.

“Do you really want to eat chemicals you can’t even pronounce?” I asked, glancing at her kids.
“But does it taste better?” she pressed.
“Well, I don’t know,” I continued, “For me, artificial food is never going to be better than something real.”

As I walked away, I was dismayed at her lack of perspective, and wondered how someone would ever choose to feed propylene glycol, a solvent used in antifreeze and plastics, to her children.  Later I also did some research on vanillin and found it can be made from either wood pulp or guaiacol, a petrochemical that is manufactured in industry.  Does this sound remotely wholesome?

Reading food labels can be very enlightening.  We already have plenty of toxins in our environment, so why ingest more?  It’s easy to make simple, great tasting food and drinks with real ingredients.  So yes, taste matters… but let’s keep it real!


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