Tag Archives: heston-blumenthal

How Sounds and Words Affect Taste

Back­ground noises greatly affect how we taste food. I wrote about this earli­er in the year – point­ing out that this is the prob­able cause of bland in-flight meals – but how else can back­ground noise affect our per­cep­tion of taste, and can our non-gust­at­ory senses affect how we taste, too?

To test this, molecu­lar gast­ro­nom­ist Heston Blu­menth­al and pro­fess­or Charles Spence con­duc­ted a fas­cin­at­ing exper­i­ment with some ‘bacon and egg’ ice cream and some var­ied soundtracks. The full exper­i­ment is described in a short extract from the book Art and the Senses that also neatly sum­mar­ises the vari­ous ways that our taste per­cep­tion can be altered by our oth­er senses:

The dis­am­big­u­ation of the fla­vour of a food dish can be achieved by a num­ber of means: either visu­ally, by chan­ging the col­our of the food, verbally by means of labelling, by present­ing pic­tures or oth­er cues on the pack­aging, and/or by the present­a­tion of aud­it­ory cues. […] Fur­ther­more, even say­ing the word ‘cin­na­mon’ has been shown to activ­ate the olfact­ory cor­tex (i.e. the part of the brain that pro­cesses smells). […] Play­ing the sizz­ling bacon soundtrack at the ‘Art and the Senses’ con­fer­ence may there­fore have influ­enced the audi­ence’s per­cep­tion of the bacon fla­vour in the ice cream simply by mak­ing them think of bacon. […] It is at present an open ques­tion as to wheth­er simply writ­ing the word bacon on the screen in the front of the aud­it­or­i­um would have had the same effect.

Is there a name for this exper­i­ence? The best I can come up with is ‘gust­at­ory cross­mod­al­ity’, but that sounds far too excit­ing (and is most likely incor­rect). I’m hop­ing for a pithy, Glad­well-esque ‘Some­thing effect’.

via @mocost

Heston Blumenthal and Cocktails of the Future

I’ve men­tioned the molecu­lar gast­ro­nom­ist Heston Blu­menth­al before, but I’ve now been intro­duced to Eben Free­man, the Blu­menth­al of cock­tails: a molecu­lar mix­o­lo­gist from New York.

On the inter­na­tion­al cock­tail cir­cuit, Eben Free­man is a massive celebrity. He is A + list. He is Madonna. He’s the future of cock­tails, the future, per­haps, of alco­hol in gen­er­al. He’s a lead­ing light among the very mod­ern mix­o­logy set; the hand­ful of men who are busily rein­vent­ing notions on what it is to drink and get drunk.

The liquid-nitro­gen-treated mint balls are a vital ingredi­ent in Free­man’s Mojito of the Future. Early this year, Bac­ardi com­mis­sioned him to redesign the clas­sic cock­tail as a pro­mo­tion­al exer­cise. […] He com­bined the Bac­ardi, the sug­ar and the car­bon­ated water with Xanthan gum, so that the base liquid of the drink is vis­cous, and the bubbles from the car­bon are sus­pen­ded with­in it, some­what spook­ily. Into that mix­ture, Free­man intro­duces the mint beads, along with an equal num­ber of lime beads; they, too, dangle eer­ily in the cock­tail. It looks space-agey, the kind of thing you’d drink at the Torch­wood office party per­haps.

From The Guard­i­an Food & Drink via Clue­less­AboutWine

Molecular Gastronomy and Unboiling an Egg

After recently redis­cov­er­ing Heston Blu­menth­al I’ve been read­ing a lot about molecu­lar gast­ro­nomy and, as such, Her­vé This and Nich­olas Kur­ti – the grand­fath­ers of molecu­lar gast­ro­nomy and Blu­menthal’s inspir­a­tion.

Now it appears Her­vé This has unboiled an egg.