London: Ever wondered why cheese tastes saltier when eaten from a knife?
Our perception of how food tastes is influenced by the size, shape and colour of the cutlery we use, a new Oxford research suggests.
Food tastes saltier when eaten from a knife, and denser and more expensive from a light plastic spoon. Taste was also affected by the colour of the cutlery, researchers said.
The crockery we use has been shown to alter our perception of food and drink. Beverages in cold coloured glasses were rated more refreshing and the weight and colour of a plate can alter how dense, salty or sweet food tastes, they said.
Researchers from the University of Oxford demonstrated that cutlery can also have an impact on how we experience food.
They found that when the weight of the cutlery confirms expectations (eg a plastic spoon is light), yogurt seemed denser and more expensive.
Colour contrast is also an important factor: white yoghurt when eaten from a white spoon was rated sweeter, more liked, and more expensive than pink-coloured yoghurt.
These effects were reversed for yoghurt tasted from a black spoon, which suggests that colour contrast mediates the effects of cutlery on flavor perception. Similarly, when offered cheese on a knife, spoon, fork or toothpick, the cheese from a knife tasted saltiest.
"How we experience food is a multi-sensory experience involving taste, feel of the food in our mouths, aroma, and the feasting of our eyes. Even before we put food into our mouths our brains have made a judgment about it, which affects our overall experience," researchers Vanessa Harrar and Charles Spence said.
"Subtly changing eating implements and tableware can affect how pleasurable, or filling, food appears. So, when serving a dish, one should keep in mind that the colour of the food appears different depending on the background on which it is presented (plate or cutlery) and, therefore, tastes different," Harrar said.
Researchers said this may also be used to help control eating patterns such as portion size or how much salt is added to food.
Alternatively, people may be able to make better food choices if their ingrained colour associations are disrupted by less constant advertising and packaging, they said.