Gastrophysics: How to create a perfect meal through science

When was the last time you feel really enjoyed your food? You may think of one perfect candle-light dinner with your loved one at a fancy restaurant. Or maybe a simple dish on family gathering at Christmas night. Whatever it was, we would say that what made it delicious was not just the taste of the food but also the memories and joyful you had.  Eating is one of the most complicated activity we always do. It is not only about how our tongue tastes the food- the sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness. We not only eat with our mouth. We eat with our eyes and ears! How could that possible? Gastrophysics reveal them all.

What is Gastrophysics?

Variety of Italian food with wine on dark wooden table. Source: Flickr

It is a scientific discipline which combines gastronomy and psychophysics. The experts systematically observe the way our senses (eyes, nose, and ears) and surroundings can influence our appetite. They called it “the new science of eating”. Our senses make us build expectations: when we see a picture of food in menu book, we speak in our mind, “Its colour so tempting, so it must be delicious”- and end up eating in big portion. We often made the decision in our mind even before we taste the food. That’s what experts said nothing “neutral context’’ in eating. The complex relation in eating makes this field become more interesting not only for scientists (neuroscientist and psychologist) but also chefs, food producers, and even musicians.

What kinds of things can affect our appetite?

The famous Indonesian cuisine: Nasi Goreng and Sate. Source: Flickr

A lot of things! They can be the appearance of the food; the shape, colour, and weight of the plate; background music or noises; lighting; the mood we have and even the person we are eating with. All of them makes our eating experience far away from objective. We don’t merely use our tongue to taste the food, but our perspective shaped our overall judgment towards the food. One awkward example is using red plate can suppress our appetite than using the white one. It simply because when we see red colour, our brain will interpret it as “danger” and “stop” sign. The flavour of the food in our mouth also can be manipulated by the sounds around us. A research shows that people will feel their coffee more bitter when they hear high-pitched noise from the coffee machine. Restaurants use this idea. They use classical music to makes costumers feel relax and eat slowly and thus altering their appetite. The sound of the food itself can make us taste something different. A research shows that when the crunchy sound of potato chips is getting louder, eaters will feel that the chips are 15% fresher. The louder the sound, better the taste. This trick has been used by food producers to increase their product sale.

What benefit can we get from it?

Gastrophysics is very useful for us. By understanding the way our senses influence us, we can control our diet. If you want to lose weight, you can use a flat and small plate because it can make you think that you already took a lot of food (it gives you a visual illusion). If you want to reduce your sugar consumption, should first find out what is the common way you eat sweet food such as ice cream. If you used to eat ice cream using a white bowl, then your brain will expect something tastes sweet when you are eating other food in a similar dish. Even in hospital, we can simply alter patients’ appetite by serving nutritious food in an appealing dish using different colour combination and texture. You can also have a delicious dinner like at high-end restaurant in your house just by turning on relaxing music while eating. Knowing these tricks can make you have a perfect meal every day! 😊

 


3 Responses to “Gastrophysics: How to create a perfect meal through science”

  1. Soumya Mukherjee says:

    I love food …. different kinds of food ……. This article explains it all from colour to texture to taste. The article is very informative and well put together. Thank you for the wonderful insight in the world of food, never have I thought of these points.

  2. Emma Fazzino says:

    I’ve never thought of food in this way, thanks for the insight! I think anyone who calls themselves a true “foodie” should read this piece.

  3. mdeurwaarder says:

    This topic is so interesting!

    As someone who has worked as a cook and studies sustainable consumption patterns quite closely I just love learning new things that influence why and how people choose to interact with food.

    Really cool article.