What was the best dish you have ever had?
This isn’t a trick question, but it’s important to think further than the food itself. Whether your answer was some sort of mind-blowing gastronomical dish at a Michelin star restaurant or just a heart-warmingly good bowl of Laksa that your friend’s aunt made for you once, think about where you were and who you were with – because that has a lot to do with it too!
Knowing that we all eat with our eyes, this rule has never been closer to the truth as research now shows that taste isn’t just dependant on our taste buds but all our other senses too. Of course the quality of the ingredients is important but even being told where it was harvested and who made it, can change the taste of that one dish even before you put it in your mouth.
Ever wondered why the plate of grilled prawns tasted better on your beach holiday than it ever has living in the city? It may have been good, but the beating sun, warm sand, cool breeze and noise of crashing waves definitely contributes to the illusion of freshness.
It’s vital to understand that a meal is more than a meal. Eating is a multi-sensory experience that is determined by your environment as the ingredients that go into it. It’s using every preconceived notion we’ve ever made to our advantage by complementing it with the details not just on, but around the plate.
So here’s a few examples on how you can make minor adjustments to the ambiance and tip the scales in your favour (flavour?), for the next time you throw a dinner party:
1) Plate Colour & Shape
It may not seem like much, but the plate in itself plays a very important role. For example, the colour white has implicit associations with feelings of purity, brightness, or possibly cleanliness, putting more focus on the food, whereas black plates exudes elegance, opulence and class. Even the choice between round and square plates hold many pros and cons, depending on the dish being served.
2) The Lighting
Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist at Oxford University states, “The hue of the lights in your dining room can also affect the way your food looks, and that can profoundly affect the way we perceive the food.”
“Green and red lighting added fruitiness to red wine,” he says. “And studies show that men will eat less under blue lighting.”
One study found that people who like strong coffee tend to drink more of it under bright light, whereas people who prefer weak coffee tend to drink more of it under dim light.
3) The Music
This could be quite complicated, as music tastes are quite subjective, but being able to pair both food and music can be considered a science. It is said that people enjoy sweet tasting foods with higher-pitched sounds where savoury foods are associated more with lower pitches and brass instruments.
Whatever the case, just don’t go playing Death Metal when carving the turkey at Christmas dinner.
4) The Mood
Ever noticed that you crave different things when your emotions fluctuate? This might be a no brainer, but keep in mind that your moods are very closely linked to that tongue of yours. People in bad moods have trouble tasting food or certain ingredients, and forget about ever having a good meal if you’re fighting with your partner!
Remember that we tend to enjoy meals more when eating in groups and that the simple action of telling a joke before a meal can lighten the entire feeling of a room – improving everybody’s overall dining experience. So experiment with these and hopefully trick you and your friends’ palettes in the process! If you have any other tips on how to amplify a meal or mistakes to avoid, be sure to comment in the section below.
*About guest author:
Khairi Iskander is a copywriter who often goes on foodie adventures with Ili Sulaiman. He is also her number one critic and friend and she confines in him for most of her foodie adventures.
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