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Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by…
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Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating

by Charles Spence

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Gastrophysics is a manual for restaurants. It lays out in very precise terms how to affect the meal, the satisfaction, enjoyment and memorability of the event. The advice comes from Charles Spence’s day job, running a gastrophysics lab in Oxford, where human guinea pigs give up their secrets – secret from themselves mostly. Things like how the shape of plates or their tint affect the experience. Why airline food tastes less than fabulous (there are four very good reasons). How rotating the plate changes the entire impression of the meal. How spraying food fragrances warms up the audience. How the sound of crispness changes our attitude. How the weight of cutlery changes our impression. How putting up a sign (Italy Week) and using red checkered tablecloths make diners think the same Italian menu items from always are suddenly fresher and more authentic. How eating off a tablet computer screen (as a plate) allows for a background video to complement the food.

Who knew the act of eating could be so complex? Every one of the five senses plays major role in our experience. Each one gets its own chapter to start the book off in a highly detailed and instructive, not to say addictive manner. Smell works in two areas – before the food enters the mouth and at the back of the throat. Smell alone has a direct connection to the brain, giving it by far the most influence on our appreciation. Taste, by comparison, is a weakling limited to five sensations. Food in motion (bacon sizzling, cheese flowing, yolks oozing) is a proven irresistible visual in advertising.

There are endless experiments restaurants have tried. In order to get everyone in a good mood, one placed mooing cylinders (and nothing else) on its tables. With nothing else to fiddle with, people picked them up, tilted them, and they mooed, quickly causing everyone in the room to do the same, with resultant universal laughter. Controlling the setting is critical, which is why some high end places make you drive 50 miles out of town, and others in the city center allow no windows at all. All these and hundreds more factors are proven motivators of the palate.

Unfortunately, we don’t remember food as much as the experience. We remember the setting, the service, the lighting, and the comfort better than the food itself. This is frustrating for super chefs, and they constantly to try to improve the memorability factor, not with the food, but with sideshows. In a nod back at supper clubs with floor shows, they use gimmicks like mp3 players, aroma sprays, live musicians, motorized dessert carts and robot servers to make the event memorable. This leads to a problem with the book: the last third is all about these extraneous attempts to make events memorable, well outside the scope of gastrophysics. The potential of battery-operated forks and fur-covered spoons is beyond. Another problem with Gastophysics is that it is mostly about the superrich restaurateurs. Spence loves citing world-renown establishments, constantly and repeatedly. The kind of places that charge upwards of £300/$400 (and up to £1000) for a set tasting. They are his peeps. But they are the exception. Also, the many soft, black and white images are less than appetizing. Finally, Spence has a nasty habit of overusing exclamation points! Oddly for a scientist so finely attuned to the subtleties of fine tuning, their use is confusing and distracting!

The overall impression is overwhelming, making Gastrophysics a go-to reference for the food industry. And yes, you can and should try these things at home.

David Wineberg ( )
1 vote DavidWineberg | Mar 3, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0735223467, Hardcover)

The science behind a good meal: all the sounds, sights, and tastes that make us like what we're eating—and want to eat more.

Why do we consume 35 percent more food when eating with one other person, and 75 percent more when dining with three? How do we explain the fact that people who like strong coffee drink more of it under bright lighting? And why does green ketchup just not work?

The answer is gastrophysics, the new area of sensory science pioneered by Oxford professor Charles Spence. Now he's stepping out of his lab to lift the lid on the entire eating experiencehow the taste, the aroma, and our overall enjoyment of food are influenced by all of our senses, as well as by our mood and expectations.

The pleasures of food lie mostly in the mind, not in the mouth. Get that straight and you can start to understand what really makes food enjoyable, stimulating, and, most important, memorable. Spence reveals in amusing detail the importance of all the “off the plate” elements of a meal: the weight of cutlery, the color of the plate, the background music, and much more. Whether we’re dining alone or at a dinner party, on a plane or in front of the TV, he reveals how to understand what we’re tasting and influence what others experience.

This is accessible science at its best, fascinating to anyone in possession of an appetite. Crammed with discoveries about our everyday sensory lives, Gastrophysics is a book guaranteed to make you look at your plate in a whole new way.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 03 Mar 2017 15:30:38 -0500)

The science behind a good meal: all the sounds, sights, and tastes that make us like what we're eating-and want to eat more. Why do we consume 35 percent more food when eating with one other person, and 75 percent more when dining with three? How do we explain the fact that people who like strong coffee drink more of it under bright lighting? And why does green ketchup just not work? The answer is gastrophysics, the new area of sensory science pioneered by Oxford professor Charles Spence. Now he's stepping out of his lab to lift the lid on the entire eating experience- how the taste, the aroma, and our overall enjoyment of food are influenced by all of our senses, as well as by our mood and expectations. The pleasures of food lie mostly in the mind, not in the mouth. Get that straight and you can start to understand what really makes food enjoyable, stimulating, and, most important, memorable. Spence reveals in amusing detail the importance of all the "off the plate" elements of a meal: the weight of cutlery, the color of the plate, the background music, and much more. Whether we're dining alone or at a dinner party, on a plane or in front of the TV, he reveals how to understand what we're tasting and influence what others experience. This is accessible science at its best, fascinating to anyone in possession of an appetite. Crammed with discoveries about our everyday sensory lives, Gastrophysics is a book guaranteed to make you look at your plate in a whole new way.… (more)

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