Oh no. You forgot to add the fresh ginger to the kung pao. Don't stress! Even if you forgot a key spice or sauce, you actually can make your food taste better—without adding a single ingredient. Serve it on a circular white plate, turn on the latest Taylor Swift album, and dig in—but not before you snap a photo of the dish.
Yup, it turns out there are some pretty weird ways to fool tastebuds into a heightened sense of gustatory bliss. Here’s how.
Put on a little mood music
In a study by gastrophysicist and experimental psychologist Dr. Charles Spence at Oxford University, 700 volunteers rated dishes from various cuisines while listening to six different genres of music. Turns out certain pairings were more pleasurable than others. Pop jams by Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran seemed to enhance Chinese food; Indian was next-level with a side of classic or indie rock; and not surprisingly, classical music like Vivaldi elevated Italian food. A stranger combo? Sushi and jazz seemed to hit a sweet spot together.
Eat for the Insta(gram)
Millennials who just can’t resist taking a “foodstagram” every time a meal hits the table might be onto something. A study published in the "Journal of Consumer Marketing" found that doing just that seems to boost taste and satisfaction in food. Previous research has illustrated that delayed gratification—it takes time to get that light right and snap the perfect, FOMO-inducing, Instagram-worthy, shot—might be the key factor here. No wonder #EatingForTheInsta is such a phenomenon.
But if photographing food isn’t your taste, choose another ritual that gets your mouth watering. Perhaps take a moment to admire the presentation firsthand, instead of through a camera phone lens, for the same effect.
Just like Instagramming, cooking may increase anticipation and make food all the more satisfying when it’s finally time to inhale it. Also, a study published in the journal "Health Psychology" found that when people prepare something healthy, like a nutritious smoothie, they tend to enjoy it more than a store-bought version. But as for whipping up a less healthful snack, like a chocolate milkshake, study participants preferred to indulge in a ready-made version. So, if you’re trying to stick with better-for-you smoothies, skip the Jamba Juice altogether.
Don’t skimp on the dinnerware
According to some studies, because vision has some influence on taste, plates and utensils can affect our satisfaction with what we eat. Circular dishes or ones with curves can make foods taste sweeter. Dark-colored plates tend to draw attention to bitterness—hence the reason many restaurants opt for white ones. Don’t even bother with flimsy flatware—heavier forks and spoons, as well as more weighty bowls and plates, seem to positively influence our judgment of the quality and satisfaction of a meal. One study, also involving Dr. Spence, found that people perceived food eaten from substantial dishes as more flavorful, satiating, and expensive—and they liked them more.
Who knew it could be so easy to make food taste better and more satisfying without adding extra salt or sugar? If a sensible diet means keeping our tastebuds happy by acting like an amateur food photographer while listening to our favorite tunes, count us in.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho