Sound and flavor

Sizzling prawns

The saying that "we eat first with our eyes" may be only part of the food enjoyment equation. The sounds of food, whether the crunch of a potato chip or the sizzle when a steak hits a hot pan, can also be important factors in how good we think they taste, says new flavor research reported in Time magazine.

Writing in the journal Flavour, researcher Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, concluded that what a food sounds like is important to the eating experience, calling it the "forgotten flavor sense."  According to Spence's research, "people use sounds to assess how tasty food is, even if they don't realize it." He provides several examples, including a 2007 study conducted by University of Leeds researchers about bacon crispiness in a BLT. The lead researcher concluded: "We often think it's the taste and smell of bacon that consumers find most attractive. But our research proves that texture and the crunching sound is just-if not more-important."

Spence thinks that food sounds are going to be the next wave of modification by food companies. "It's going to start out with modernist chefs," he predicts. Changing the sounds of food "could also be used to help make food more pleasurable for the elderly whose overall senses may be decreasing." The manipulation of sound can go beyond the food itself. Ice cream manufacturer Häagen-Dazs, for example, has "launched an app where customers can scan their ice cream carton and listen to a violin concerto timed to allow the ice cream to soften."

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