Food is one of the pleasures of life. Most of us look forward to times of day and seasons that present our favorite dishes. But why we like those foods is complicated. All of our senses—sight, smell, sound, touch, in addition to taste—play a role. So does our memory and perceptions.
Marketers and chefs know the significance of visual presentation whether the food is packaged or plated. We are drawn into restaurants or the family table due to the aroma of what’s cooking. And that sound of the sizzle on the grill attracts us along with that smell.
The feel of foods is also important. Some like cold or hot dishes or foods we can hold in our hands. We also have our preferences of crispy, crunchy, or creamy. And how much we enjoy any of it is based on past experience. Comfort foods are linked to memories of earlier days.
I’m not a big fan of farfalle, also known as bow-tie pasta. As pretty as they are to look at, I prefer the firmer, tubular shapes of macaroni or penne. The texture, how the sauce sticks to the pasta, and the familiarity of childhood family dinners are only a few of the reasons these types of pasta top my list.
Scientists state that shape does in fact alter the flavor of foods. Molecules reach the tongue and nose at different speed and order with the change of shape.
A few years ago, the British company Cadbury updated the shape of their chocolates called Dairy Milk. The public strongly reacted claiming that in doing so the flavor changed.
Cadbury responded that the recipe and preparation process remained identical. The only change was the shape of the angular chunks to ones that were curved.
Their goal was to allow the chocolates to fit into the mouth easier. But this also changed how quickly the chocolate melted and molecules were released on the tongue. The oils in the chocolate now are released quicker resulting in an oily taste.
When preparing foods, shape is even more significant. Dice vegetables and their texture changes, varying the taste, or at least our perception. Think of how differently raw, whole carrots taste from diced or sliced and also how they taste when cooked. And the more surface area of the ingredient, the greater the change. For example, we increase the browning or charring on a vegetable or piece of meat with elongated shapes of food.
The shape also affects aroma. The smaller something is cut, the greater the aroma, and as we know, smell is an important aspect of taste. Chop broccoli or cabbage and the smell of the sulfur can be offensive. Slice onions or mince garlic and we can almost taste them.
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