By Harold McGee
Corn has a distinctive flavor unlike that of any other grain. Popcorn and other dry corn products toasted at a high temperature develop a number of characteristic carbon-ring compounds, including one that they share with basmati rice (acetylpyrroline). Alkaline processing gives rise to yet another set of distinctive aroma molecules, including one that is a breakdown product of the amino acid tryptophan, and a close chemical and aromatic relative of a characteristic note in concord grapes and wood strawberries (aminoace-tophenone, related to the fruits’ methyl anthranilate). Masa can also have violet-like and spicy notes (from ionone and vinylguaiacol).