Neurogastronomy

There is no taste in food as such, as in a rainbow there is no color. Taste and color are qualities that our brains attribute to the objects around it. This means that the perception of taste can be controlled if this process is studied well enough. Neurogastronomy is a new field of knowledge at the intersection of neuroscience and food technology, which is faced with very ambitious tasks. For example, make a salty dish without salt, or turn broccoli into chocolate.

How the brain creates the taste of food

So, taste is not something that is inherent in food by definition, and at the same time, almost all people have the ability to define it. Most often (though not always!) Our taste sensations coincide, at least a sweet cupcake is difficult to confuse with a sour lemon. Taste recognition is an important survival mechanism that allows living things to determine the composition and properties of food obtained.

How does the brain know that food contains the nutrients the body needs? The solution, invented by nature itself, is taste buds that react to molecules of a substance entering the mouth and nose. Due to the variety of such receptors on the tongue, we are able to distinguish between salty, sweet, sour and spicy tastes, as well as fatty and satisfying (due to glutamate) foods. However, many people know about receptors, but this is only part of the truth.

It is important for us to know everything about food - what color it is, what it smells and tastes, whether its texture and temperature are pleasant. Based on this knowledge, we make a decision about whether or not it is worth eating, whether this dish will satisfy our physiological needs. The perception of taste is influenced by almost all available sensations, past experience and nutritional context.

Science and Deception

By changing and creating all these seemingly side-effects, we can manipulate taste. Experimental chefs have long kept the secrets of creating ideal palettes and scales, and food manufacturers know exactly in what form customers prefer their products.

Research into how the color and shape of utensils and the surrounding sounds affect the perception of food is described by Oxford psychologist Dr. Charles Spence in his new book published in 2014 (in English). The work is titled "Ideal Menu: The Multisensory Science of Food and Nutrition?" and contains a lot of interesting information for any gourmet.

If you eat food while listening to hard rock, for example, it becomes much more difficult to distinguish between its taste. Any dish in this context will seem more bland than in a quiet environment. But if you decide to surprise someone with your culinary art, then a more winning effect can be achieved by turning on the music corresponding to the theme of the dish. Seafood served on transparent dishes to the sound of waves and the screams of seagulls? It looks like your guest will really enjoy such a treat.

But a study published in 2013 in the journal "Appetite" showed that the red color of the dishes discourages all this appetite. The group of people who were fed exclusively from red plates ate on average 40% less than the control group. And regardless of what was on the plate. Scientists speculate that this may be due to the sense of danger associated with the color red.

Experimental Kitchen

What is known about cooking? Psychologists have shown that a person can clearly distinguish no more than four equally pronounced odors that make up a complex dish. This is quite small, so if you want to emphasize some kind of taste in a recipe, you should not overload it with additives - they can muffle the main emphasis.

But, as it turned out, it is very easy to excite the olfactory system by adding the word "cinnamon" to the name of the served dish. Seeing or hearing this word, a person begins to perceive spicy aromas more sharply.

Would you like to serve your guests wine with meat, but only white was found at home? Red food coloring can confuse even professional sommeliers, let alone ordinary people. And if you finally decided to experiment on unsuspecting guests, serve a fruit plate for dessert, lightly (do not overdo it) sprinkle the pieces of fruit with salt. You will be surprised - the fruit will seem sweeter.

Environment is important

Research shows that interactions with food, food rituals, and self-cooking make the taste richer and allow you to eat less overall. While new experiences from restaurant menus can be very enjoyable, homemade food can ultimately make us more fulfilling.

Serving utensils are an important detail that can affect the taste. For example, white and round plates “support” sweet tastes, while black rectangular plates “support” salty. To keep the sweet taste of the dish without excess sugar and not to oversalt the soup, you should use this life hack. But to enhance the sweet taste of coffee without excess sugar, a clear or blue cup will help.

So how do you turn broccoli into chocolate? Neurogastronomy as an applied science is developing very actively and has already penetrated the field of high technologies. Developers create gadgets that change and enhance tastes through interaction with receptors. So, a fork is already available today that creates a salty taste in unsalted food, as well as a device that turns any food into a dessert. ...