A Fork in the Road…and on your Plate


By: Emily Del Bel

Lately I’ve been thinking about the twists and turns that have led me to where I am today. I suppose that’s natural as graduation approaches. Some of the turns have been carefully planned and executed, but many of them were due to pure chance. Inevitably, these are the ones that changed my life the most, like the one that led me to food science and IFT.

For the purpose of this story, let’s just say I started college a long time ago. I wandered from major to major, and by the time I ended up in environmental engineering, I was thoroughly convinced that college was some crazy form of torture that you were tricked into paying for. One day, in a desperate attempt to find that elusive perfect major (and put off the latest engineering assignment), I picked up a course catalog. Have you ever seen one of those? I’m not talking about the online version; I’m talking about the BRICK of a book that details every single class and major that the University offers. It was quite enlightening. I found course titles such as “Fashion Theory” and “Far Side Entomology”. The one that caught my eye, however, was “Food Chemistry”. As a devout Food Network fan I couldn’t resist the temptation to explore the major that offered such an intriguing class.

The rest is history. I switched majors, joined the food science club, and threw myself into making new friends.  I was disappointed to learn that I would have to wait three years to start the food chemistry series, but somehow I managed to keep it at bay with classes like “Fruit and Vegetable Processing” and “Dairy Processing” where I made pickles, jam, cheese, and ice cream. Every year a new bunch of friends would roll through the last class in the series, “Food Systems Chemistry”, and give me a glimpse of the light at the end of the long tunnel of Organic Chemistry, Calculus, and Microbiology. Many times it felt like I would never make it.

While I’m sad to be closing this chapter in my life, I am ecstatic to finally be enrolled in the class that drew me to food science in the first place. It’s even better than I could have imagined. Lecture is fascinating (for example, today’s topic was the science of melting cheese), but labs are incredible. Each Thursday afternoon for the last 7 weeks I have gotten to learn about, play with, and eat a variety of foods: meringues, pita bread, noodles, and espresso. Next week is “meat week”, and there’s still 2 more weeks of class after that. I am one happy foodie.

A lot of things have changed since the day that I chanced across food chemistry, and by extension, food science. I hope that chances like that keep coming my way, and that I will be able to recognize them as they come. Some things never change, though, and I continue to find ways to procrastinate – this time by writing this blog post. Fortunately, this week’s assignment is to write a paper about the chemistry of cakes. I think I’ll manage somehow.

How did you stumble upon food science? Did you learn about it from your course catalog or a professor? Perhaps an industry professional introduced you to the topic? Share your unique story of how food science became an integral part of your life in the comments below!

Science Meets Food

The IFT Student Association (IFTSA) is a forward-looking, student-governed community of IFT members. Through competitions, scholarships, networking, and leadership opportunities, you’ll set yourself apart from your classmates (unless they’re members too).