Quentin Cooper meets some of the growing band of scientists who say that the food we eat is just a small part of our dining experience. Plate size and color, what the cutlery is made of – even background sounds – can affect how we enjoy our food.
At University College London, in the UK, Professor Mark Miodownik has developed a set of seven identical teaspoons, electroplated with different metals – from stainless steel to copper, zinc and gold. When people eat from them, they find that the reactivity of the metals has a dramatic effect on what they taste. Could savvy chefs use this to enhance our enjoyment of restaurant meals? Quentin tries out the spoons on some unsuspsecting UCL students.
And at Oxford University, psychologist Professor Charles Spence says that psychology plays a crucial role in taste. Whether it’s pointy slices of cheesecake activiting our brains’ fear circuits and putting us off our desserts, or a white plate making a strawberry mousse taste 10% sweeter, flavours are cornstructed in our minds as much as our mouths.
Could these insights be used to help us make food taste more appetising, without resorting to adding salt or sugar?
This production is part of the STEM Story Project — distributed by PRX and made possible with funds from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.