This bowl is salty!
The colors and general appearance of the food are crucial to the taste. We wouldn’t eat a blue tomato with that much appetite (it would probably bring to mind mold and rot); or a yellow blueberry (that would seem sour and unripe). But not only the look of the food affects the taste experience – the objects on which and with which it is served are important as well!
The color of spoon
The research published by Vanessa Harrar & Charles Spence shows that yogurt tasted denser and more expensive when eaten with a lighter, plastic spoon. White cutlery made yogurt seem sweeter than black. And the color of the yogurt mattered – pink didn’t taste as expensive as white.
In another experiment, the authors proved that you can “regulate” the saltiness of cheese by serving it with different objects. It tasted saltier served from the knife than from a fork or a toothpick. What is more, the sharper the object, the sharper the taste of cheese appeared. Researchers explain that our brains judge food before it enters our mouths. This phenomenon is multisensorial – it affects sight, smell, and touch.
The size on plates
Not only cutlery matters – people tend to eat less when their food is on smaller plates. This optical illusion, called the Delboeuf illusion, is often used in restaurants’ buffets – people put less on their smaller plates and quickly feel full despite eating less food.
There is another rule applying to portion sizes. People tend to serve themselves more if a plate is the same color as food – like pasta with broccoli sauce on a pale green plate. And since we are talking about colors – white plates make food seems sweeter and the flavor more intense while blue tend to suppress appetite. However, some studies show that snacks from a red and blue bowl were rated higher in saltiness than those from a white bowl. Is it because the snack packaging is usually colorful and we associate those colors with saltness?
The neatness of the dish is an interesting case – vegetables can be served rather chaotically and still taste good, but animal products in a messy manner were perceived as less appetizing.
Monash University’s food scientists served the same chicken mango curry in four ways: on a large square plate, a normal-sized circular plate, a small bowl, and in takeaway foil. Participants rated takeaway food as the weakest in terms of smell and appearance. Curry on the large square plate seemed to be bland, but with the most agreeable texture. Bowls provided the strongest and longest-lasting flavor.
But why does it matter? Think about how great it is to “sweeten” your meal with the color of your fork instead of actual sugar!