“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.”
Chef Paul Prudhomme
“But it can make the food taste a lot better.”
Eating is a sensory experience that includes more than our sense of taste, sight and smell. The lips and tongue are among the most sensitive areas of the body so it makes sense that touch would be an important part of the eating experience.
Researchers in Spain examined this intriguing topic and published their findings last month in the Journal of Sensory Studies.
Previous research has demonstrated that the weight of an object or container influences perception. Coffee and creamer served in heavy glass was rated as better tasting than the same coffee in Styrofoam.
Heavier plates are also associated with more positive rating of food. Heavier wine and perfume bottles are associated with quality.
For this experiment, subjects sampled vanilla yogurt. Two different teaspoons were used. One was a stainless steel spoon weighting 19.2 grams. The other was a plastic spoon with a polished metallic finish, weighing 4.9 grams.
They looked similar although not identical. Subjects were given the same yogurt with the two different teaspoons. They thought it was two different types of yogurt. The type of spoon used to taste the yogurt significantly influenced taste perception. Participants rated the yogurt eaten with the stainless steel spoon as higher quality and better tasting.
Results from other studies show that food on pink or white plates tastes sweeter than dark plates, and sweet popcorn tastes saltier in a colored bowl.
This is about the easiest way to have people perceive your cooking as tastier. Serve it on heavy china with the good silver ware. But this is about more than taste. Setting a table and displaying the food is part of mindful dining. Using all the senses leads to greater enjoyment.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.