Friday, March 27, 2009

Ambiance is Everything

My wife and I love "Food Detectives" on the Food Network. The program puts food myths to the scientific test and applies science to food in innovative and interesting ways. Recent shows have debunked the myth that MSG causes headaches and listlessness and demonstrated how to make frozen cocktails with liquid nitrogen.

This week the program conducted a particularly fascinating experiment. To what degree does presentation of food -- what you call it and how you serve it -- influence one's taste buds?

The show fed two groups of diners the same food, garden variety fish, creamed potatoes, green beans, chocolate cake and red wine. The food fed the first group had plain, boring names (chocolate cake) and was served with plastic plates, utensils and glasses, and paper table clothes and napkins in a spartan dining room.

The second group ate exactly the same food, but this time it had fancy names (double dutch chocolate cake) and a little garnish (an herb tied around the green beans). They consumed their meals with silver on china with linens in a dining room with a pleasing ambiance.

The results were stark: The first group rated the food mediocre to poor, while the second raved about it.

Fascinating. It makes you wonder, do we really taste our food? No wonder all those celebrity chefs place such a huge emphasis on presentation.

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever had Jelly Bellies, those jelly beans that come in dozens of different flavors? If you eat them with your eyes closed, it's really hard to recognize the flavors. You need to see the color so your brain knows what they're supposed to taste like. (Pink for bubblegum, green for watermelon, etc.)