We think of taste as something that happens on our tongues and in our noses, but Professor Charles Spence knows better:
"The shape of the glass matters ... the weight of the cutlery in your hand matters. It changes how tasty the food is," he says. "It all gets blended together [your brain] in a way that’s kind of impossible for you to pull it apart."
In his latest book, Gastrophysics: The New Science Of Eating, Charles argues that there are many different inputs that determine what we think of as "taste" -- from the background music in a restaurant and the shape of your spoon to our DNA and, yes, the images on food packaging:
"Whenever we see food, our brain straight away gets into the act of simulating how would I eat it," Charles tells Dan in this week's episode. "If you have the mug with the handle tilted slightly to the left, that’s gonna be hard for a righty to pick up. … [T]hat slight difficulty in imagining myself picking up that cup will translate into a slightly lower liking [for the liquid in the mug]."
Later in the show, Charles weighs in on Dan's theories of eating. Does putting the cheese on the bottom of your burger actually enhance the taste?
And we put one of Charles's theories about ice cream to the test in a public experiment -- with a little help from Dan's daughter Becky (above).
Listen in to the full episode to hear what science can teach us about how to get the most flavor out of both our cheeseburgers and ice cream.
Interstitial music in this episode from Black Label Music:
- "Private Detective" by Cullen Fitzpatrick
- "On The Floor" by Cullen Fitzpatrick
- "Stay For The Summer" by William Van De Crommert
- "Midnight Grind" by Cullen Fitzpatrick
- "New Old" by JT Bates
Photos: Sam Frost (courtesy of Charles Spence) and Dan Pashman