Why are we so drawn to black-colored food?

squid ink pasta

Remember when Burger King caused a sensation a few years ago with its black-as-night hamburger bun? Even before that took the world by storm, we were awash in black-hued foods that popped up in our Instagram and Facebook feeds. Why do we flock to dishes that are so unnaturally dark-colored? Ligaya Mishan explores the concept in a delightful article in The New York Times Style Magazine.

Mishan isn't discussing foods that are naturally noir like raisins, but rather foods that are not traditionally black that have been tinted to extremely dark hues. She points out that studies have shown that our palates can become confused when presented with foods that are not colored as we expect. For instance, a 1936 experiment by the chemist H. C. Moir, showed that when participants were presented with vanilla cakes that looked like chocolate cakes, they had incredible difficulty identifying the flavor.

One explanation for why we are drawn to these foods is that we expect them to be exotic, to taste unlike anything we've eaten before. Another, more esoteric concept is that perhaps "the role of unexpectedly black foods is to disrupt the everyday, to remind us that not everything is sweetness and light," says Mishun. Whatever the reason, it seems like black foods will continue to capture our imagination and confound our taste buds. 

Photo of Squid-ink pasta with sat cod confit from Saveur Magazine

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