I Hear Bacon
Which specific foods do you think of when you hear the words:
Does the sound of food – being prepared, whilst being eaten – affect our perceptions of its taste?
The candles are lit, the napkins tightly creased, the forks polished, tine by tine. As your stomach growls, you hear the sharp sizzle of your host throwing an unidentified food into a hot pan.
Ah. That telltale smell. It’s bacon. We know that the smell of the bacon (or doppelgänger fake-on) will enhance your eating experience, but what about the sound of it cooking? Does loud bacon taste better?
Yes, if you’re a bacon lover and there’s some left sizzling in the pan.
Researchers find that people taste the bacon flavour more strongly if they are listening to the sound of bacon sizzling. Turn on the clucking farmyard chickens and you’ll taste more egg. Diners enjoy their oysters more when they are listening to the sounds of the sea, not the squawk of the chickens..
Abraham Mignon. Still Life with Fruit, Oysters, and a Porcelain Bowl. ~ 1660 – 1679
Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento and Charles Spence of Oxford University find that snackers rate their potato chips as more crispy if crunching sounds are amplified on their headphones.
Do you associate vinegar and lemon juice with high or low pitches? How about coffee and dark chocolate? Subjects tend to naturally link the sour foods – vinegar, lemon – with high pitches and the bitter foods – coffee and dark chocolate – with lower pitches.
In another study, Edinburgh researcher Adrian North – from Heriot Watt University – finds that people’s wine experiences can be heightened with different music. North had participants try two types of wine – a white Chardonnay and a red Cabernet Sauvignon – while listening to one of four ‘types’ of music:
i. Carmina Burana by Orff – powerful and heavy
ii. Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky – subtle and refined
iii. Just Can’t Get Enough by Nouvelle Vague – zingy and refreshing
iv. Slow Breakdown by Michael Brook – mellow and soft
The music affected sipping perceptions for both types of wine. When people heard the zingy Just Can’t Get Enough music they rated the wine as more ‘zingy.’ With the powerful and heavy Carmina Burana, they rated the wine as more ‘powerful and heavy’ and so on.
Choose your dinner soundtrack wisely.
Header. Banquet Still Life. Abraham van Beyeren. 1667