Taste or by definition ‘the sense by which the flavor or savor of things is perceived when they are brought into contact with the tongue’ can be affected by many things. One of these things being what we are listening to while we eat.
Famously, Heston Blumenthal offers his diners the dish of ‘Sound of the Sea’. Whereby a box with a glass lid delivers what looks like a beach scene of sand and seashells with foamy waves. It is however a dish created from tapioca, fried breadcrumbs, abalone, razor clams, oysters, three types of seaweeds amongst numerous others. Moreover, diners are invited to eat the dish while listening to seashore sounds on an iPod as this is said to create a more intense culinary experience. Critics argue that this will kill conversation while Blumenthal insists it is just one course from seventeen of them.
This dish was created after working with Professor Charles Spence of Oxford University who has conducted many experiments on how sound can boost taste. In one experiment seventy people were given two oysters, one while listening to seashore and seagull sounds and another while listening to farmyard sounds. They were asked to rate each oyster on the intensity of flavor and how pleasant they found the oysters. The findings were that the oysters were rated significantly more pleasant while listening to seashore sounds. In a similar experiment using Blumenthal’s Egg and Bacon Ice Cream, if sizzling bacon sounds were played the diners found the bacon flavor significantly more intense but when played the sound of chickens clucking they were said to have found it more ‘eggy’.
Professor Spence said “These results demonstrate that our perception of flavor involves not only the multi-sensory integration of all the available cues in the food itself – the oyster’s slippery brininess, the bacon’s meaty odor – but also the multi-sensory integration of some of the cues that are present in the environment in which we happen to be eating. This might help explain why food and drink that we enjoyed on holiday is often disappointing when tried back home – we are missing all those multi-sensory environmental cues – the smells, the sounds, the sights – that helped make it taste so wonderful.”
In a different type of experiment a wine store played French accordion music on Day 1 and German oompah band music on Day 2. Sales on Day 1 found that French wine outsold German by 5 bottles to 1. While on Day 2 German wine outsold French wine by 2-1. On another occasion there was an experiment playing pop music and classical music; the results showed that their customers bought more expensive wine while listening to classical music.
So perhaps that muzak in the background should be given some love and attention and come more into the foreground of our thoughts.
Photos courtesy of Flickr Geordiepete211, *nina*