Recently I have been thinking about the importance of rheology, the study of the flow of matter; liquid and solid states, oil and water emulsions which are very much a part of this topic when it comes to food flavor release. Think about Rheology and then think about peanut butter; it stands solid but spreads smoothly with a single spread by a knife.
The overall flavor profile of a food emulsion depends on the distribution of flavor molecules amongst the various phases present e.g., oil, water, interface, aqueous phase, head space, etc and their release profile during consumption.
Flavor release is usually characterized by an increase in the concentration of flavor molecules in the aqueous phase (taste) or head space (aroma) as a function of time, which is a flavor intensity–time relationship.
The flavor intensity of full fat products may be characterized as balanced and sustainable throughout the course of consumption (“sustained release”), whereas in reduced fat products the flavor intensity may be unbalanced due to an initial spike (“burst release”) of flavor immediately after consumption, followed by low flavor intensity at later times. source: D.C. Frank, G.T. Eyres, U. Piyasiri, C.M. Delahunty.
Flavor release is something that few chefs rarely think about, and a topic that is not well schooled. I tend to think that flavor release, structure and composition of any dish are always hand in hand. When you have a memorable food experience it includes these elements and more, harmony or disharmony depending on the experience.
By the way, rheology comes from Greek, rheos, meaning to flow, a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus describe rheology as Panta rhei, “everything flows”. Think about it the next time you have a food experience.