Taste and the Function of Form

How important is how your food looks? In recent years, a variety of new studies have cropped up studying the relationship of how food is manifested and how we experience it. While the majority of how we taste is directly connected to our sense of smell, what we see on our plates may have more impact that you think.

There are some functional ways in which form affects flavour. New technologies at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University have confirmed that the shape of a wine glass directly affects the flavours experienced through manipulating the distribution of flavour-enhancing ethanol vapours. (Newton, Scientific American) In 2012, a consumer uproar arose over changes in the Cadbury formula. Cadbury, however, changed its shape from square block to rounded pieces, but did not change the recipe. Based on prior sensory tests by the Nestle Research Centre, the round shape encouraged faster melting, affecting release of flavour compound and the ensuing perception. (Scott-Thomas)

But further research seems to indicate that the mental perception of shape alone may be enough to sway our palettes. Studies are being done indicating everything from color to sounds actually changes the way something tastes to the individual. (This article giving some breakdown on a slew of new research being delved into.) For us as bakers, hoping to perhaps innovate in our field, even adapting traditional recipes, this could be a crucial tool.

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