HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a press release from the University of Southern Miss
Satsuma barbeque sauce, sesame catfish and okramole. What do these diverse foods have in common? They are all a result of University of Southern Mississippi nutrition majors mixing their creativity, knowledge and local ingredients.
Students in the Department of Nutrition and Food Systems at Southern Miss have developed and produced new food products integrating local ingredients. On April 14 juniors enrolled in Experimental Foods opened the doors of their food laboratory to the campus and Hattiesburg community for its second annual Nutrition and Food Systems Expo. More than 100 guests taste tested and evaluated the new food products.
“I already know I really like cooking and being creative in the kitchen, but I didn't know how satisfying it would be to see people enjoying my food,” said junior nutrition major Lydia Nickens. “Also, there are many yummy foods produced in Mississippi that I haven't explored in my cooking, but now I certainly plan to.”
During the semester, students learned different food properties. “We cover everything from the molecular components of starch and the pigments in meat and vegetables to the properties of baked goods and how gluten develops,” said Dr. Alicia Landry, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Systems. “So, they had to choose a local item and build a recipe around that item.”
Tory Dixon, junior nutrition and food systems major, developed an ombre' beet cake, using beet juice to provide natural coloring rather than artificial food dye. Beet juice provides extra liquid so Dixon had to create a cake recipe that would account for the extra liquid, the temperature changes that occur when extra liquid is present and the texture changes while still producing an acceptable product for consumers.
For the purpose of the project, local foods were defined as contributors to the Mississippi farming economy. “In the past 50 years the number of farms in the U.S. has decreased dramatically, while the size of farms has grown tremendously,” said Landry. “Buying local helps small farmers and is something that I personally find very important to communicate to our students.”
Trey Mitchell, nutrition and food systems major, said the project confirmed he chose the right career path. “I know that I want to be a registered dietitian for a while out of college, but who knows maybe one day I will be head chef of my very own five-star restaurant,” he said. “If I learned anything at all from this, it is that I am exactly where I need to be. This is my passion.”
Students were provided with 32 local foods to choose from and their proposed recipe had to use a minimum of eight ingredients. They created sensory and objective evaluation measures for guests to evaluate their products, performed nutritional analysis, created a food label, and completed a cost estimate for a serving of their product. Evaluations completed by guests at the Food Expo will help students determine the acceptability of their products and possible improvements.
“At the end of the day, being able to please everyone with food is impossible, but that's what makes food more than just food to me, it is a very complex art that can be tasted, seen, emotionally felt in different ways from different people's perspectives, which is what I love,” said junior nutrition and food systems major Marquis Scurlock.