The newest culinary discipline focuses on the human brain and how it can be re-wired to perceive food differently.
A new culinary discipline known as neurogastronomy could have broader implications on how people eat, Eater reported.
Rather than focusing on what can be done to food to in order to alter its taste, neutrogastronomy focuses on the human brain and how it can be re-wired to perceive food differently.
“When we try to imagine the flavor of something, we tend to focus on our mouth—the experience of placing, say, a ripe strawberry on our tongue,” said writer Maria Konnikova. “But that, in fact, is taste, and though we tend to conflate it with flavor, a vast chasm exists between the two.”
Taste is relatively objective, but flavor is something that can be manipulated. For many years, food manufacturers have attempted to sate people’s innate desires for sugar, salt, and fat with low-fat, artificially sweetened substitutes, Eater reported.
“But instead of curbing obesity and metabolic disorders, these innovations seem to have resulted in the opposite,” Konnikova said. As it turns out, the body can’t really be fooled by such substitutes, and the end result is that you just keep craving more sugary, fatty foods.
“Use real sugar, real energy, real fats and salts and the whole gamut of flavor, but do so in lower quantities, in a way that makes the result taste good and sends actual energy signals to the brain, creating an experience that is both psychologically and physically satisfying,” Konnikova wrote.
Acclaimed chef Heston Blumenthal, who runs the three-Michelin-starred eatery The Fat Duck in Berkshire, England, discussed his interest in the discipline in a profile in the New Republic. One technique that Blumenthal uses that could be applied to mass-market foods is called encapsulation, “in which he presents a flavor in a way that makes it seem far larger than it is,” and he’s used it at the Fat Duck for at least a decade. “With an encapsulation approach, a few strong bursts rather than dispersed flavor, Blumenthal has successfully reduced the salt content of multiple dishes in his restaurants. The final taste experience is just as salty overall, even though the amount of sodium has been reduced,” Konnikova explained to Eater.
Other things that can influence people’s perceptions of flavor include temperature, music, and the appearance of food, right down to the shape that something’s served in, Eater reported.
“The fact that why we eat what we eat originates in the mind rather than the palate is a powerful one. Properly harnessed, it could prove to be the key to succeeding where so many other nutritional interventions have failed,” Konnikova said.