The brain is a very powerful thing. So why is it a surprise that it can change the way we taste food? Charles Spence is the head of Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory, and he’s been trying to convince us for years that this is true. His new book “Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating,” spells it all out.
Spence says the other four senses play a large role in how we taste. For example, in one test, he had 200 volunteers munch on Pringles potato crisps while listening to various sounds in headphones. He discovered that the snack seemed fresher when accompanied by a loud crunching sound.
Here are some ways the brain and your senses could be changing your taste:
- Go for a pricey bottle. Research shows that vino drinkers reported enjoying a wine more when told it was expensive.
- Watch those menu adjectives! In one experiment, meat described as “free-range” was rated tastier than an identical hunk termed “factory-farmed.”
- Smell is crucial to taste, and someone drinking beer straight from a bottle will miss out on flavor.
- Wondering why many desserts are circular? It’s because round food is perceived to taste sweeter.
- A dessert served on a white plate was rated 10 to 15 percent sweeter than one on a black.
- How the food is oriented on the plate matters. Angles should be pointing away from the diner and long, thin ingredients should stretch from the bottom left to the top right.
- Cutlery is crucial. The heavier the spoons and forks, the higher the diners rated the food and the more they were willing to pay for it.
- Music has a huge effect on dining habits, with eaters rating pizza and pasta better while listening to Italian opera. (Justin Bieber’s Baby was one particular song that turned diners’ stomachs.)
- Perhaps revealing a preference for familiar things, diners slightly prefer foods that start with the same letters as their name. Charles likes chili.
- Crunchy foods are crucial to enjoyment: Chefs often add crispy elements, such as toasted seeds over soggy salads or croutons to soups.
- Coffee tastes twice as intense when drunk from a white mug.
- Italian food consumed in a restaurant with red-and-white-checked tablecloths tastes more authentic.
Source: New York Post