Why is it that sometimes food tastes better or worse than we remember? We know that tasting is a multi-sensory experience but research shows our taste buds can actually be tricked by our other senses. So what influences affect the way our food tastes?
Listening to music whilst eating can affect the way we taste food. A study by Oxford Professor, Charles Spence, showed how hearing different music whilst enjoying chocolate affected the taste of it. Those who listened to sombre music whilst tasting found the chocolate more bitter, whereas the same chocolate tasted sweeter to those listening to upbeat music. Choose your dinner party music carefully!
A combined influence of the colours of actual foods and advertising means we associate different colours with different foods. Red, for example, is associated with a fruity taste. So much so, that wine sommeliers have actually been tricked into tasting flavours commonly found in red wine in a white wine that had been dyed red! When it comes to chocolate it’s been noted that orange is a complementary colour pairing. Professor Spence’s research showed that drinking hot chocolate out of an orange mug improved the taste perception. And it is not just colour but also the general appearance of food that can make it more appealing. Chocolate with a high gloss shine, for example, is far more enticing than chocolate with a dull finish.
Smell is linked directly to the taste of food as the flavour profile of each food is made up of a combination of tastes and smells. One of the reasons we savour chocolate is its pleasant scent, which can evoke memories of enjoyable times such as childhood pleasures or holidays. But the smell of food is not the only way our noses can enhance our tasting experiences. A study by Utrecht University has shown we can actually smell the joy of others via pheromones! Happiness is infectious, so if someone you’re dining with is enjoying their food, you’re more likely to enjoy yours too. So enjoy fine food with a fellow food lover to enhance the tasting experience!
Luxurious materials are known to positively impact our enjoyment of food. For example, in tests, the same coffee has been noted to taste better from a porcelain cup than a plastic or polystyrene cup. As we can all appreciate good presentation, serving your guests luxury chocolates or delicate patisserie on fine china plates may encourage them to take their time, and savour the tasting experience.
If you love gastronomic experimentation, you’ll know how our senses contribute to the pleasure we take in tasting our food. How important, then, that we take the time to engage with our senses; after all, where luxury chocolate and other fine foods are concerned, what’s the rush?