That Sounds Delicious

Sound plays a large role in how we taste
by Staff, Utne Reader
November-December 2010
Add to My MSN

Content Tools

Related Content

Simple Answers to Enduring Environmental Dilemmas

There’s a lot of conflicting information available on how to live lighter on the earth: Washing dish...

Invasive Bug Threatens Basket Weaving

The emerald ash borer invasion is threatening the work of native basket weavers, who rely on thin st...

A Scientific Super Bowl Buffet

Instead of popping open a bag of Chex Mix and calling it a party this Sunday, take a culinary cue fr...

In Nature Versus Nurture, Chalk One Up for Nature

Modern clinicians used to reject the idea that one’s temperament was inborn. But recent studies sugg...

Taste is a notoriously mutable sense; everything from ambience to price can affect the way we feel about what we eat and drink. At the renowned Fat Duck restaurant just outside London, chef Heston Blumenthal is running with that psychological insight, creating dishes that encourage interaction and intense emotional responses, reports Psychology Today (March-April 2010).

His dish Sound of the Sea looks a little unconventional right out of the kitchen. It’s a plate filled with shellfish, seaweed, foam, and “sand” made from fine-ground ice cream cone, eel, and vegetable powder—molecular gastronomy fare, designed to separate flavor from form and texture. The pièce de résistance is even more ethereal: Alongside the plate of seafood, intended to make diners feel as if they’re digging for seaside treasure, there is a pearly conch shell concealing a tiny iPod that’s loaded with an oceanic soundtrack.

Blumenthal got the idea from the work of Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University. Spence’s research shows that sound plays an even larger role in how we taste than was previously assumed. In one study, people eating chips while wearing headphones described the chips as fresher when the sound of crunching was amplified. Later, with the volume on the headphones turned low, people complained that the same chips were stale.

At Fat Duck, at least a dozen diners have been moved to tears by Blumenthal’s audible dish. In his opinion, sound is the essential ingredient for unlocking his patrons’ emotions. “It’s almost as if you give the [diner] the framework and the canvas and the paints,” he told Psychology Today, “and he paints his own picture.”

Image by jin.thai, licensed under Creative Commons.

Post a comment below.


Pay Now & Save $5!
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!