You Taste What You See

images-1Can a glass cup sweeten your coffee?

In Nicola Twilley’s New Yorker essay – Accounting for Taste  – packaging can subliminally affect the flavor of food. Not a new idea – the power of the mind over the senses. In the nineteen fifties Vance Packard demonstrated how slick marketing could manipulate in The Hidden Persuaders. In this century, Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink proposes we form perceptions based on our immediate surroundings. Twilley’s summary of Charles Spence’s research demonstrates we taste what we see – the “new frontier”of oral perception.

Longing for something sweet? Some of the findings you might want to consider next time you lift a fork:

  • Strawberry mousse tastes sweeter when served in a white container.
  • Coffee tastes sweeter in a glass mug.
  • Red in packaging is associated with sweetness.
  • Cheesecake tastes sweeter when eaten from a round white plate rather than a square one.

And the sounds surrounding your taste buds may make a difference. Try listening to a soundtrack of crashing waves and screeching gulls while eating your next seafood plate to improve its taste.  Or, better yet, find a restaurant near a beach.



The Lost Art of Mixing

9780399162114_p0_v1_s260x420Using charming characters as her ingredients, Erica Bauermeister reprises her recipe for comfort reading in The Lost Art of Mixing, her sequel to The School of Essential Ingredients. With an ensemble that mixes well – some adding spice, others watering down the flavor – Bauermeister connects the lives of mismatched lovers, family anxiety over elder care, and a grieving widower to her staple heroine,Lillian, restaurant owner and chef. As Lillian tries to manage her own issues, the intercepting lives of foodies and friends connect.

The recipe includes finding love, being true to yourself, learning life lessons, and happily ever after endings – with descriptions of the rainy American Northwest as well as some mouth-watering dishes. Not to be read on an empty stomach, or you may be salivating more than sighing through the scenes.

Eat This, Not That!

Another book about food – but this one is mostly pictures – so good they will make you hungry.  True to the title, David Zinczenko compares the bad to the good food.

A quick check will tell you what to prefer at your favorite fast food restaurant – seems Subway gets five stars, but McDonald’s doesn’t do as badly as you’d think.  Also included are “sit-down” restaurants and the supermarket – and recipes for food you can make – because you’re not supposed to be eating out anyway.

But the best piece is the first chapter. “The Truth About Your Food.”  I dare you to eat another piece of salami after reading what’s really in it.

This is the book you can pick up at the local bookstore, and flip through while drinking your coffee in the store cafe.  You’ll get the idea pretty quickly, if you don’t already know it – which does not necessarily mean that you eat well anyway.

The Imagine Diet

Would imagining eating that bag of Hershey Kisses satisfy me as much as actually eating it?  Finally, a diet I can sink my teeth into – if only in my dreams.  Real Evidence for Imaginary Diets in today’s New York Times offers yet another way to circumvent eating less/exercising more to lose weight.  John Tierney offer the “Imagine Diet” – especially great for those of us who daydream a lot.

Essentially, look but don’t touch; think about the chocolate, but don’t taste it.   If the theory is true, then why do TV commercials with those talking M&Ms make me salivate?  And all those catalogs coming in the mail – Christmas junk mail – with luscious covers of sugary pecans, shortbread dipped in chocolate, caramelized candy canes… when the subliminal urges make me buy, could I just look at the packaging and not open?  Doubtful.

I may have a great imagination – but absolutely no will power.

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