Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Yummy, Natural Trend: Perfuming Your Food - and the Launch of Anya's Garden Food & Drink Oils - with a Giveaway

Trends are fun, and it's fun to be on the front end of one.  Funny thing about this trend, which is using essential oils for food and drinks, is that it's been around for a long time. I've been cooking with essential oils since 1978, starting out with the humble dill weed oil. Nobody noticed much except my friends and family and customers of my early-80's catering business.

The difference is that now it's starting to get attention in the media.  Heck, I wanted to launch my latest line, Anya's Garden Food & Drink Oils, way  back in 2006.  At that time, I wrote a letter to a local chef who was opening a new restaurant, pitching her the idea.  She never replied, I got toooo busy with life and work, and had to put my line on the back burner.

Now, the timing is better, anyway.  There are several mixologists who have been hosting perfumed cocktail soirees for the past year or so.  Menket Prince, whom I knew from aromatherapy groups back in the mid-90's, wrote a book Cooking with Essential Oils.  If you google "cooking with essential oils" you'll find over 136,000 hits.

From my Heart: Pushing a Trend, Pushing baby birds out of the Nest

I'm always one to push a trend, especially for the members of the Natural Perfumers Guild.  Well, even before the Guild, when I hosted, for free, the Natural Perfumery website. I had been hosting the yahoo NP group for several years, and realized that the perfumers need to get the word out on the Internet about this new trend, natural perfumery, and that by grouping together on one site, they would benefit from google ranking, more hits, etc.  I was then going to establish the Natural Fragrance Association, but I had the defunct Natural Perfumers Guild given to me, so I went with that as a platform for promoting the art and the artisans.

After receiving several awards from Internet bloggers in 2009, I encouraged other perfumers to get out on the Internet more, send samples and take advantage of the heightened recognition of natural perfumery.  Then Guild perfumer Dominique Dubrana had the idea of a competition centered around musk.  I felt the perfumers needed a different platform than a competition, so I  developed Internet projects that would help push the baby birds ;-) out of the nest:  They were the Mystery of Musk and the Outlaw Perfume projects.  What great successes they were!  Previously-unknown-to-the-general-public Guild perfumers received the attention they deserved, and Ida Meister of Cafleurebon exclaimed: "Who knew there were so many talented natural perfumers out there?" regarding the July MOM project. (Was it a subconscious slip that the acronym for the slogan I created was "mom", being a list mom and Guild mom"? ;-)  The Outlaw Perfume project of November 2011 was even a bigger hit.

Now I want to share with the Guild perfumers, associates and suppliers the idea that they develop a line of culinary oils.  Think up a fun phrase, please don't use Food & Drink (mine) or Chef's Essences (Mandy Aftel's).  First, use the links I provided to find recipes and test them yourself.  Offer courses at local community colleges, farmer's markets, or offer stand-alone workshops.  This is a great way to expand your line and introduce people to your natural perfumes at the same time.  I'm excited to think that some perfumers in other countries, like Australia or England might be trailblazers in their countries. Like tea? Create perfumed teas, or coffees, if that's your drink of choice.  Be creative!

This is the root of my philosophy in running the Guild, and I stick by it: encourage others to get out there, ride with a trend, help each other, and the natural fragrance world will be the better for it.

Leave a comment, as I'd love feedback to see what you think - and feel - about my "pushing the baby birds" and this new trend, and you'll be in the random drawing for two of my Food and Drink Oils!  Please post before 10 a.m. Saturday morning, April 23.


  1. Anya, you never cease to amaze me! You are so generous and giving. I'm years away from having a business, but I will be purchasing some of your oils to cook with.

    There's nobody else like you in the natural perfumery world, you are a dear who keeps giving and giving, and I love that you call it pushing the baby birds out of the nest, lol.

  2. Anya, I forgot to ask about recipes. Will you provide them?


  3. Herbs Essential oils and cooking my favorite pastimes.

    If we take a walk thru time herbs were originally used to cure common problems, and to make questionable food edible. Herbs were hard to get and only the doctors of that time knew how to use them. These herbal doctors skills went into many different directions to today’s doctors, healers, and chefs.
    Were would Italian cooking be without oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Basil etc.
    These are all very powerful herbs and even more powerful Essential oils. My dry skin ointment is often said to smell like Pizza, due to the above Essential oils.

    Essential oils are the basis for the flavoring industry. The use in food is as long as history itself.
    The use of the Essential oil vs the herb is very different. Some oils that smell great taste horrible. Essential oils are also much more concentrated than the herbs we are commonly use to using.

    In some foods the herbs are better suited than the essential oils themselves. When you cook the heat can burn off the aromatic part of the oil, and what is left may not be as pleasant as what you started with.

    Selection of the Essential oils for these purposes is also so much more critical. Everyone may know to select oils that are GRAS, generally regarded as safe. The direct food use the product must be FCC grade. Many essential oils on the market are not FCC grade oils but are a much lower commercial grade used in the soap industry.
    When using these oils for sale for ingestion the care in your own testing and quality control must adhere to FCC guidelines. Testing for purity, and contamination, lead, mercury, etc.
    This goes beyond simple GC/MS testing but also includes Certificates of analysis for the product that covers all the items needed to be tested.

    Your own record keeping needs to be able to provide recall information. This requires that every batch you make be able to be identified and the source of each ingredient be able to identified for recall purposes. Example: If a blend you have uses several essential oils and a carrier oil. If you find out that one of the oils fails the C of A test you will need to recall all of the products that were made that used that oil. So you need to be able to have batch numbers to give your customers to look for to identify the faulty products.

    This level of testing and record keeping is far above what is needed for a product that is not meant to be ingested.

    Also check your product liability insurance since most perfume insurances do not cover ingestion of the essential oils.

    The food industry is much more regulated as it should be. I see the recalls everyday for herbal teas, and supplements.

    And at last don’t forget that Essential oils have medicinal purposes, and the difference between a medicine and a poison is the dosage. Nutmeg Essential oil has many effects beside the flavor.

    Larry Marsala
    Natalchemy Inc.
    3801 Charter Park Court
    Suite E
    San Jose, CA 95136

  4. I'll reply to everyone soon. I just had my nails done, bought Easter candy and have a friend coming over.

  5. Hi Margaret

    Thanks for all your sweet words, they are appreciated.


  6. Yes, margaret, I have recipes and tips on using the oils. When I was working on the document this week, I hit a wrong button, and whoosh, they got all garbled.
    I'll probably just post a simplified series of links. I'm into taking it easy this week, so maybe next week it'll hapen.


  7. Thanks for posting this here, Larry. I wanted everybody to see your points. I'll get chatty in the Guild Yahoo group on some of them, and I agree with most of what you wrote. I have great sources for FCC grade, etc. and some other tips, like what to wash the bottles with, how to sterilize them, and having an FDA-approved kitchen.


  8. I'm pleased to know that there are so many culinary oils available. When I first heard about Aroma I wanted to try my hand at cooking with essential oils but never carved out time to really look into the subject. The timing does seem better now.

  9. Hi Lisa:

    You'll find a lot of great recipes in Aroma, and be creative yourself. Just remember a little goes a LONG way ;-)

    BTW, you were the first to order from me when I announced the launch the other day, and your order and the others go out tomorrow, with a little extra tucked inside - unless you might like to try one of my perfume samples. Let me know ;-)


  10. Anya, that is very generous of you, thank you. I've only sampled your MOM & Outlaw perfumes so whatever you send would be greatly appreciated.


  11. Fantastic, Anya! I've been using essential oils and hydrosols in my cooking for decades. I encourage everyone to have a blast with this! I always say when it comes to the blending of food and friends - the more the merrier! :)

  12. Lisa, I think you need a little MoonDance ;-)

  13. Chris, I share your philosophy ;-) The more the merrier!

  14. Well, a confession: on the blogger dashboard, there is a place to approve or delete a number of comments pending. I clicked on the box for about seven of them, then my hand slipped, and I deleted them instead of posting them :( There's no way I can retrieve them. If you posted, and you see this, please post again if your comment didn't appear.

    I'll extend the deadline for comments until Sunday.

  15. Anya,

    I just discovered you via Anne's food blog and am really excited by your food and drink oils. I've got ideas for some fantastic ice creams and creme fraiche based sauces using your oils.

    Off to peruse your blog and links some more.



  16. Hi Karin:

    Thanks for dropping by and leaving some positive comments. Enjoy those ice creams!


  17. Anya, I'd be excited to see more natural perfumers offering and marketing essential oils (and hydrosols too) for use in culinary applications! I've always thought the link between aroma for personal wear and scenting our environments was logically connected to what we eat and drink.

    That said, I think Larry's comments echo my own concerns about knowing about safety vs. being guided by flavor alone. I don't know much about the properties of different plants, much less when they are concentrated into their essences. I trust you, the natural perfumers, to not unduly "harm" us via topical application (here I'm thinking of you knowing to use, for example, bergaptene-free bergamot and that kind of thing, not the more general common-sense warning that something might cause sensitivity on a more individual basis). The standard for ingesting stuff is just that much higher.

    It's quite exciting, though, to have more options in finding these culinary essences to broaden our palettes. I do love to play in the kitchen!

  18. I think it is a great idea, though the safety is definitely a priority as was already mentioned. Marketing-wise, it is a novel way to reach out to a foodie crowd and introduce them to natural perfumery at the same time. I think recipes will also really help with sales for food and drink oils, and am very excited to see the recipes as they are shared on the blog and Anya's Garden pages!

  19. Hi Ahsu:

    You've been ingesting essential oils all your life. They're in all the jars of pasta sauce, salsas and many other prepared foods.

    Believe me, any amount more than a tiny bit would make the food inedible, due to the concentrated flavor.

    In other words, don't worry, there's sort of a self-regulating factor built into them ;-)


  20. Michael, did you see Beth's blog today? She tried five of my oils in food and drink. I have the link on Anya's Garden Facebook page.


  21. No, I hadn't seen Beth's blog yet. Some yummy and fantastic ideas! Very very exciting :-) Thanks again for launching another great product line!



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