06/30/2017

Season Your Meal With All Five Senses

27:36 minutes

Credit: C.C. Chapman/flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Should you put your food on a red plate or a blue plate? Do you drink your beer out of an angular glass or a round one? What dinner music do you cue up? It turns out that such mundane-seeming decisions can have a significant effect on how we perceive the flavors and textures of our food. For example, people report an enhanced appreciation for umami flavors in the din of an airplane, but a decreased ability to taste sweet things. That could explain why you might crave tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix during a long flight.

[Does sound affect the way we taste?]

University of Oxford experimental psychologist Charles Spence is a self-described “gastrophysicist” who experiments with the ways aesthetics, environment, and even subtle cues in packaging can change how we perceive sweetness, bitterness, crispness and other qualities of our food. He describes how restaurants, both expensive and midrange, are using this knowledge, and how a greater understanding of gastrophysics can improve even the humble (and often wasted) hospital meal.

[Read an excerpt of Charles Spence’s book Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating.]


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Segment Guests

Charles Spence

Charles Spence is head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory and professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England.

Segment Transcript

IRA FLATOW: And now, a topic close to my heart– my stomach. Earlier this hour, I suggested that you might want to get some dark chocolate handy. Don’t you love it when we do stuff with dark chocolate? Because it’s something we always like to say, you can do this at home. Because we’re going to do a little experiment a bit later. So go on and get whichever kind of dark chocolate that you like.

But first, think of the last time you ate airplane food. Did you enjoy that experience? Or was it, you know, airplane food– not exactly known for deliciousness?

The fault for that, according to my next guest, may not actually lie with bad cooking or bland ingredients. Instead, he says, it’s the noise of the engines, the lack of cabin pressure. These things could be ruining our taste buds. And therefore that airplane meal– ruined, as well.

Charles Spence is a self-described gastrophysicist. That is a nice gastronomy pun, there. And he studies the environmental cues and sensory inputs that help us enjoy our food. And in his latest book, he describes a whole bunch of things we’re learning about– how to get more out of our home cooking, our restaurant meals, and even, yes, hospital food.

And it could be as simple as changing the color of a plate or keeping the music slower. We’re going to talk about all of these things. And, if you have your own ideas, our number, 844-724-8255. Also, you can tweet us, @scifri. 844-724-8255.

Charles Spence is a professor of experimental psychology at University of Oxford and author of a new book, Gastrophysics, the New Science of Food. And he joins us from Oxford, England. Thank you for staying up late for us, Dr. Spence.

CHARLES SPENCE: It’s a pleasure.

IRA FLATOW: Let’s talk about food, and why “gastrophysics”? How did you come up with that name?

CHARLES SPENCE: It’s a kind of scientific-sounding term, indeed. But it’s there to try and capture our interest in studying gastronomy, kind of the nice food experiences, the things that we look forward to and enjoy and share and talk about. And, on the other hand, the “physics” is from “psychophysics,” which is a kind of a branch of psychology where you try and systematically study the factors that affect human perception and behavior.

IRA FLATOW: Let’s start with what I was talking about– airplane food. How would something in our ears, like loud engine noise, affect what we’re actually tasting with our tongues?

CHARLES SPENCE: Well, the evidence I’ve collected over the last couple of years shows that those loud sounds of the engine, together with the lowered cabin pressure and the dry air, together mean that food doesn’t taste the same as it does on the ground. No news to anyone. But what is the new finding is that that loud engine noise seems to suppress our ability to taste sweet and salt in food but actually enhances our ability to taste that mysterious fifth taste of umami, what we find in tomatoes, mushrooms, anchovies and so on– Parmesan cheese.

And I think it sort of explains why it is that so many people, maybe a quarter of all airline passengers, will order a tomato juice or a Bloody Mary in the air and never touch the stuff when they’re down on the ground. It’s almost as if we’re sort of self-medicating for the one drink whose flavor, if anything, improves in the air, relative to other things that we might consume.

IRA FLATOW: That answers the question of why they even stock it on an airplane. You know?

CHARLES SPENCE: [LAUGH] The best seller– the best seller.

IRA FLATOW: That’s very interesting. We’re going to do a little experiment of our own. And, earlier in the hour, I suggested to our listeners to get some dark chocolate handy. And that’s because you’ve been investigating using music to season our food. How does that work?

CHARLES SPENCE: Well it’s kind of the flip side of the bad noise of the engines and the overly loud restaurant suppressing our taste buds. We’re more interested, in a way, in trying to figure out how we can use sound, music, soundscapes positively, as a kind of sonic seasoning. Sounds bizarre, but, from research we’ve been doing over the last decade, we find that you can systematically modulate people’s experience of a food or a drink simply by changing the sound qualities of the music that’s playing in the background.

IRA FLATOW: OK. Here’s what I’m going to do. Just for science, I have to eat some chocolate– a few times. [LAUGH] Somebody’s got to do it. I’m going to eat some chocolate, but I’m going to listen to a few different music clips, to make it more specific. I don’t know what they are, so, uh– we’ll–

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

IRA FLATOW: –we’ll see– surprise me. So, here. I’m going to take one bite of the chocolate, without the music, first, for a control. Mmm. (WITH MOUTH FULL) OK. There we go.

And then we have a– we have two 30-second music clips. [GULP] We’re going to play the clip, sip some water between, and note whether the chocolate tastes more bitter or sweet. I’m going to do that for the second clip, with Charles. Charles Bergquist, our director, let’s play the first clip.

[ELECTRONICA, CHILL-OUT MUSIC PLAYING]

[MUSIC ENDS]

Hmm! All right, let me take a sip– sip of water, now. Clear the palette. Take another bite, and hear the second piece.

[ELECTRONICA, CHILL-OUT MUSIC PLAYING]

[MUSIC ENDS]

OK. I noticed immediately, you know, the sound was so powerful, on the second one, I could hardly notice– enjoy the chocolate I was eating. Is that right? Did I get that right?

CHARLES SPENCE: That’s right. So, those two soundtracks, soundscapes, have been based on the research from the lab in Oxford and from restaurants and bars around the world. And one of them, people, most people, will say sounded sweeter than the other. And the question is, was the first sound sweet, or was the second sound the sweeter of the two?

IRA FLATOW: I would say the first sound was the sweeter of the two.

CHARLES SPENCE: So it’s a sort of more tinkling, more high-pitched sounds most people will associate with sweet taste, whereas the second one was much lower in pitch, a kind of rougher sound. And those low-pitched sounds tend to be associated with bitterness.

IRA FLATOW: Hmm.

CHARLES SPENCE: So most people will make those associations just spontaneously. Kind of curious, when you say that sweet and bitter don’t literally have a sound, and yet we all associate a sound with them. And then, when you take something like a bittersweet, dark chocolate or a slightly sweetened black coffee and play those tracks, they can kind of almost draw your attention to the sweetness in your mouth or to the bitterness. And, by so doing it, kind of makes it a little bit more salient or intense to you.

In much the same way that when, you know, a wine-tasting say and the expert says, you know, can you get the asparagus? And suddenly, you can. It’s there. It’s been there all along, but you couldn’t quite pick it up. And the same thing you can do, more subtly, with these almost synaesthetic kind of soundscapes.

IRA FLATOW: We also have a clip of a sour sound. So let’s play that one.

[RANDOM, DISTORTED ACCORDION NOTES]

Wow. That is sour.

CHARLES SPENCE: [LAUGH]

IRA FLATOW: [LAUGH]

CHARLES SPENCE: That is the sourest music known to mankind. It comes from Bruno Mesz, a colleague down in Argentina. It’s a mathematically transformed Argentinian tango, though you wouldn’t know it from what comes out. And that, you can guarantee, if you have something with a bit of sourness in it– say, a white wine– then it will really bring out the sourness. Perhaps not necessarily a great tasting experience, but a very different tasting experience than the one you would have without music or while listening to something else.

IRA FLATOW: This is Science Friday, from PRI, Public Radio International, talking with Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist from the University of Oxford, author of Gastrophysics, the New Science of Eating. It’s really a very interesting book. And we’re delving into it.

If restaurants understand what you’re saying, might they start offering some headphones or something to people who are eating?

CHARLES SPENCE: [LAUGH] They do already! They do already!

IRA FLATOW: They do?

CHARLES SPENCE: Some of the airlines do. Sometimes just more as sort of short-term demonstrations or interventions or marketing-led things. But I think there is a real potential here to put headphones on or to play over the loudspeakers a track to change the taste.

And really this kind of– these soundscapes really came out of work we did a decade ago with the chef Heston Blumenthal. We did an experiment, here in Oxford, giving people oysters, playing the sounds of the sea, giving them oysters, and playing the sounds of farmyard chickens or something else. And it really changed the tasting experience for them.

And that led to the Sound of the Sea, the signature dish, seafood dish, at the Fat Duck restaurant, where, in fact, it comes to the table looking like the sea. And the waiter will bring a conch shell out of which dribble some earbuds. He’ll recommend that you put them in. And when do you do, say, you’ll hear the sounds of the waves, the seagulls overhead. And you’ll be more mindful of what you’re eating, and it will hopefully enhance the taste of what is already a great dish.

IRA FLATOW: Well, let me– before we go to the break, you brought up an interesting point that I’m trying to get more into, and that is mindfulness when you eat, paying attention to the flavors.

CHARLES SPENCE: That’s right. A lot of the work that’s sort of covered in the book kind of hinges on this notion that if you’re distracted from what you eat, then your brain doesn’t really pick up the cues that you are consuming. And hence those sensory cues, the smells, the tastes, the textures of the food, that’s what you need to get lots of in order to convince your brain that you’re full.

So, if you’re watching the TV, if you’re distracted by a mobile device, that can lead towards a third more food consumed, because your attention’s elsewhere. And anything you can do to bring people’s attention back to the food, to enhance the sensations, the flavors, the tastes and textures will both make the thing a better tasting experience, a more memorable one, and will also hopefully help nudge people towards consuming slightly less but being no less satisfied.

IRA FLATOW: Hopefully we can nudge people toward reading your book, Gastrophysics, the New Science of Eating, with Charles Spence, who’s our guest this hour. We’re going to take a short break and bring him right back and cover lots of different things about all the other senses, how they’re involved in all your tasting experiences.

Our number– 844-724-8255. You can also tweet us @scifri. Maybe you’re getting ready for the holiday weekend– you have some tips to share on tasting stuff. We’ll be right back, after this break.

[MUNCHING CRUNCHY FOOD]

Mmm. (WITH MOUTH FULL) This is Science Friday. I’m Ira Flatow. I’m sorry to be rude. I’m sorry. Eating a potato chip.

But there is a method to my madness, here, because we are talking about the psychology that makes our food taste better, whether it’s a heavy spoon or a round wine glass, with my guest, experimental psychologist Charles Spence, author of Gastrophysics, the New Science of Food.

And the reason I was eating these potato chips– or, I guess, as you call them, crisps, across the pond, there–

CHARLES SPENCE: That’s right.

IRA FLATOW: –is that the sound– you write about how important sound is, in our eating habits.

CHARLES SPENCE: That’s right. It’s one of the mysteries, really, that makes sense why we like sweetness, given it signals the stuff we need for our growth, and why we might dislike bitterness, because that might be bad for us. But why do so many of the foods that we crave, that we love, that we snack on, involve a sonic element– a crunch, crisp, crackle, squeaky, even creamy, and carbonated? They all have a kind of certain sonic signature.

And that’s kind of summed up, really, and there’s no question of why it is, that none of us out there at all would like the taste of a soggy potato chip. It’s got the nutrition, it’s got everything there. It’s got the taste, the color.

All it’s missing is the sound. And yet that is a deeply unappealing thought to anyone. So there’s something about sound that’s really intrinsically sort of rewarding, I think. And the question is to try and figure out, what is it that that signals in food that might draw us to it?

IRA FLATOW: Mhm. Your work looks at all the five senses, though. It turns out that color and even the shape of the dishes matter.

CHARLES SPENCE: That’s right. Well, you cannot literally taste the glass or taste the plate or bowl. Nevertheless, I think the color, the shape, the texture, the feel, the weight of the plateware, crockery, cutlery, all do exert an impact on what we think about what we’re tasting, how much we enjoy it, how satisfying or satiating we think it might be.

So, for example, in one of our first studies in the area, we were working with Ferran Adria, from the Alicia Foundation in Spain, one of the world’s top chefs, with his research center. And there we had people coming in and tasting a pinkish-red strawberry mousse. And they first tasted it off a white plate and then off a black plate, or vice versa.

And we asked them, how sweet does it taste? How flavorful? How much do you like that strawberry mousse? And the amazing result to come out then, which has been replicated many times since, is that the dessert tasted 7% sweeter to people when they were tasting it from a white plate, 9% more light, and 13% more flavorful, than exactly the same mousse and exactly the same people, but from a black plate instead.

IRA FLATOW: Wow. Wow. And I imagine that the size and shape of the plate influences your vision of what you’re eating. And even how much you’re eating.

CHARLES SPENCE: Yes, there’s a large body of research out there suggesting that one of the ways to help nudge ourselves, and those we feed, towards eating a little less may be to serve food off a smaller plate, from a smaller bowl, or from a rimless bowl. So all those little tricks will make it appear to our brains, based on some visual illusions, like there’s more food there. And that might help us to eat a little less.

And we see it even now, in the Far East. There are a number of sort of virtual-reality, augmented-reality headsets coming onto the market that will actually make the food you’re eating look bigger than it really is. So, if you see a really big cookie, but in fact it’s only actually small, will your brain be as full as it would have been from the big cookie, or not? And that’s kind of where the research is going now, these sort of sensory nudges, through all of the senses, that can be used hopefully to help us move towards where we want to be, in terms of consumption.

IRA FLATOW: Mhm. Well, let’s go to the phones. Let’s go to Sacramento, California. Martha, welcome to Science Friday. Hi, Martha.

MARTHA: Hi, this is Martha.

IRA FLATOW: Go ahead!

MARTHA: Yes. I’m curious why restaurants these days are always so noisy. All the hard surfaces, the open kitchen, the music, even television overhead makes conversation hard. And I really don’t even want to go to a restaurant anymore.

CHARLES SPENCE: [LAUGH] Yes, I know what you mean. I think part of the answer is down to the new sort of fashion for that sort of Nordic feel, when all the tablecloths, the cushions, the curtains, the carpet’s all been stripped out, down to the bare wood, the stone, the hard, reflective surfaces that make whatever noise is there sound that much louder to us. But it’s also, I think, partly this kind of shift that sort of come, I think, originally from some New York chefs who very often would listen to loud rock music in the kitchen, to help motivate them to chop all those– chop and dice all day long.

And they thought, well, if we listen to that music in the kitchen, well, maybe our diners would like to listen to it out there, in the front of house. And that led to some, yeah, overly loud tracks being played in restaurants. And that kind of pattern, I think, has now been moving out around the world, such that many restaurant critic now will actually not only rate the quality of the food but will have a little sound level on there to say, I couldn’t hear myself speak, or it was a nice, kind of quiet, comfortable listening level.

So I think it really is a problem. When we see some of those restaurants, especially in New York but– coming in at over 100 decibels of background noise. That is so loud, it’s definitely going to be suppressing your ability to taste food. But, beyond that, it’s probably causing long-term hearing damage to anyone who’s spending a great deal of time working there.

IRA FLATOW: Speaking of noises, I’ve got a few tweets in. This is representative. “Please, please, Ira, I love your show, but do not eat on the air. It’s crude beyond belief.” [LAUGH] “Don’t do that again!” someone else says. I apologize

CHARLES SPENCE: You should be careful, because, you know, this phenomenon of misophonia, these people who get so irritated by the sound of other people chewing gum, puckering their lips, or biting into crisps. And in the book there are a couple of examples where people have been shot because they made food while eating popcorn and other things in cinemas, in the US and in Europe, too.

IRA FLATOW: So there really– there’s actually a word for it, now!

CHARLES SPENCE: Yes, yes– “misophonia.” Seems primarily related to sort of food-related sounds driving people to distraction. And just last year, colleagues in the UK looked at sort of the neural underpinnings of this and could show significant differences in brain activity in those who complained of this kind of condition.

IRA FLATOW: Hmm. Well, I apologize to everybody I have offended, but the food was good. Here’s a question for you, in the age of social media. Why are people driven to share a photo of what they’re eating? I mean, what is behind– I have to just take a picture and tweet it out, or Facebook, or something.

CHARLES SPENCE: That’s right.

IRA FLATOW: Instagram–

CHARLES SPENCE: –more and more people who are doing that these days. In a more recent survey, here in the UK, it said 40% of diners, when they go out to eat or to drink, cannot help but take pictures and share them, of the food and drinks. I speak to chefs, and to cocktail makers last week, and they were saying, you know, it’s bizarre. People are now coming into our bars, and they’re saying, I want this!

And what they mean by “this” is sort of showing a picture, on their smartphone, that somebody has sent them. And the barman will say, you know, do you know you like that? Do you know what it is? Do you know what it’s called? Do you know how much it costs?

And they have no idea about any of these things, but they’ve seen it. It’s kind of what you might call “gastroporn,” food porn, and they want it. So it’s a really growing trend.

And I think, as a chef or a restaurateur or a barista and beyond, you have to sort of play into that. There are a few who will say, nope, I’m really annoyed with this trend. In my restaurant, you cannot use your mobile devices.

That will last a week or two. But then you have to relent, especially given how much kind of free media coverage that this sort of sharing of images can result in. And for us, we then try and help some of the chefs and say, look, you know, look how widely your signature dish has been shared around the world.

People like– Albert Landgraf has this wonderful, like, purple onions and green foam dish. It’s his signature dish. And we ask him, you know, people all over the world are seeing this, thinking about eating it.

How did you decide how to plate it? Because it’s a really important image. And he’ll say, yeah, I didn’t care about it. I didn’t think about it. But it was just kind of intuitive.

And that’s where the gastrophysics comes in, to say, OK, from what we know about vision and people’s perception of the visual arts and painting, this is what we think will look good in terms of plating. And we’ll take the chef’s dishes, put them online, and ask people around the world, if you were going to Albert’s restaurant tonight, would you like your plate like this, or like that?

Or what we kind of always do, when you– well, not “always do”– but sometimes, when you go to a restaurant, that the waiter will put the dish down in front of you, and you just kind of tilt it a little bit– just twist it a few degrees. It won’t change the taste, but it may change the visual appearance in ways that, to the extent that we do eat first with our eyes, you know, can make things taste better. But the danger, in the long run, I think, has to be that, if people spend too much time thinking, how will my dish photograph, they may one day start to forget about what it tastes like. And then we wouldn’t really want to be there.

IRA FLATOW: Let’s go to Charlotte, North Carolina. Hi, Sean. Welcome to Science Friday.

SEAN: Hi! Thanks for taking my call.

IRA FLATOW: Go ahead.

SEAN: My question was about the companies that traffic in different sizes and shapes of wine glasses, as highlighting or focusing the flavors or aromas of a particular kind of wine. Is this something that we’ve found to be objectively true? Or is it more just very active, imaginative marketing?

CHARLES SPENCE: [LAUGH] It’s a bit of both. I absolutely believe that serving wine, or other drinks– beers, or coffees or soft drinks– from different-shaped and -sized receptacles does make a difference to the experience, but I think not for the reason that those who are very often promoting glassware will have you believe. Because what you see from the lab is that, if you blindfold people so they can’t see the glass, if you put the glass under their nose and just agitate it on a machine, so all the aromas come off, but so they can’t see the glass, they can’t feel it, then there’s no difference between different glass shapes.

But we normally drink with our eyes open, holding the glass in our hands. And, as soon as you do that, then wines can taste dramatically different, as a function of the glass shape and so on. In some of our research, just published this week, we did with beer in Australia, and found that, if you drink the same beer from a straight-sided glass, versus one that’s kind of curved from bottom to top, that it will taste fruitier in the curve-sided glass.

And that’s exactly the same result that has been found previously for wine. Round-shaped wine glasses will bring out fruitiness. More angular-shaped glasses will bring out sourness, acidity– and in fruit juices, too. And I think this is all about what’s going on in the mind of the person holding and seeing the glass, the expectations that are set therein and not about the different flow properties of the liquids on your tongue, or the capture of different volatiles above the drink.

IRA FLATOW: In fact, we asked listeners on Twitter how they preferred their beer. And the answer was almost unanimous. They like drinking it from a glass. And that was followed by a bottle and then a can.

CHARLES SPENCE: That’s right. And you want to say, you know, why does it, for so many of us, seem to taste better– whether it’s beer or a soft drink– from a bottle rather than a can? And that’s a question that– many people intuitively think there’s a difference there, but no one has ever experimentally tested it. So, at the Edinburgh Science Festival last year, we had 300 people come through, and they got to drink a beer that they saw had been poured from a bottle or from a can. Exactly the same batch of beer, and yet those who’d rated the beer from the bottle did indeed say it tasted better.

And I think that’s down, in a way, to the extra weight that a bottle has, relative to most cans. It’s that weight in the hand, or in cutlery, or in plate, or in packaging, that does lead to better taste experiences.

IRA FLATOW: If you’re just joining us, we’re talking with the author Charles Spence, professor of Psychology at Oxford. His new book Gastrophysics, the New Science of Food. And you can read an excerpt of his book on our web page, at sciencefriday.com/flavor.

Let’s talk about the presentation a little bit. You mentioned how important that was, before. Does the cutlery have anything to do with our–

CHARLES SPENCE: It does, it does. And I think that’s going to be a real kind of radical area for transformation, in the next few years. So, if you think about it, you know, some of those top chefs are doing amazing things. They’re no longer just constrained by the round, white, American plate. They’re plating on slate and bricks and in flowerpots. Well, some of them are, at least.

So there’s been a lot more innovation in plating and in plateware. But when you think about cutlery– the knives and the forks and the spoons– that has not changed for a century! And it’s so boring. And it’s, like, you know, cold, hard, smooth stainless steel and silver– that’s it! Knife, fork, and spoon, and that’s it!

Go back a century, and your Victorian cutlery sets might have had 100 different items, things that we today cannot even figure out quite what they’re there for. What on earth would you use them for? But that’s all about to change, and I see it changing in two ways.

Firstly, more and more of the top restaurants are starting to serve a number of the dishes as finger food, forgetting about cutlery altogether. Take Mugaritz, in San Sebastian=– two-Michelin-starred restaurant. And this Spanish restaurant has got rid of cutlery altogether. 25 courses or so, all to be eaten with the hands. It’s kind of a challenge for the chefs– how do you serve food that works that way?

IRA FLATOW: Soup must be tough.

CHARLES SPENCE: There are a lot of wet towels going around.

[LAUGHTER]

But still, I think, it’s them questioning, why do we do it this way? And could we do it better? And, on the flip side, I see people working with textured-handle spoons, textured– the spoon of the spoon, as it were.

And if you were to go to the Fat Duck restaurant, one of the world’s top ones, in Bray, in the UK, from Heston Blumenthal, the last course comes to the table. It’s a miraculous dish. It’s floating in midair.

But the thing that’s most amazing to me is the spoon that it is served with. And, based on the research from our lab, when you pick that spoon up you go, wow, that’s really, really heavy. Because we know that things that are heavier than you expect tends to connote quality, and you enjoy things more.

And it’s also got a furry handle. You think, what’s going on, there? Well, again, what you feel in the hand can change your experience of what you put it in your mouth.

IRA FLATOW: And this is– I’ve got to interrupt– this is Science Friday, from PRI, Public Radio International. Sorry. We have to break in. I hate when I have to do that, but– a furry handle, did you say?

CHARLES SPENCE: I did, indeed. [LAUGH]

IRA FLATOW: What kind of fur is it made out of?

CHARLES SPENCE: Oh, sort of a white, almost, um– yeah, so. [LAUGH]

IRA FLATOW: Who knows?

CHARLES SPENCE: Who knows?

IRA FLATOW: Who knows? Whatever–

CHARLES SPENCE: And it’s scented, as well. It’s a truly multisensory implement, and that way the future lies.

IRA FLATOW: All right. We’ve covered the waterfront on this. So let’s bring back full circle and talk about, what does this mean to the average bloke eating at home? You know, how do we change or make a better experience for ourselves?

CHARLES SPENCE: So I think a lot of the insights that come out of this work that’s mainly going on at the high end– the Michelin-starred, the San Pellegrino listed, top restaurants– it seems esoteric, and that it wouldn’t apply to us unless we were to eat there. But, in fact, I think it does percolate down from that top end, all the way through to chains, to the air, to hospitals, and then to the home.

And how so? Well, those who are cooking, dining at home, then maybe you have different things in mind. It might be that you want– what tips can I use, in order to help me eat a little bit less but not stay hungry? What tips can I have, next time I throw a dinner party, to create the most memorable evening that any of my guests have ever had? Or just, what on earth can I do to get my kids to eat their vegetables?

I think, for any of those three questions, there are solutions from the book and from the high end. So, if you take something like creating a memorable meal, then what you see some of the top chefs doing are giving a sort of tasting menu. So lots of small courses are able to create more sticky memories that might stay around in your guests’ minds for longer.

Then you might give them a surprise amuse-bouche, because surprises stick in mind more. And then the very idea, well, we’ll sit them down, and we’ll just give them a big starter, a big main course, that’s not going to stay in memory, so you want to do theatrical things, memorable things.

IRA FLATOW: But I have to– so many people, just sitting there on their cell phones, eating, or on their laptops at the same time, they don’t care what– you could put anything on that plate!

CHARLES SPENCE: Yeah, you’re right. So I’d say, I think the number one tip has to be just turn the TV off, whatever you do. That will probably– may lead you to eat a third less. That will force you to focus on the food and those you’re with and beyond that, then–

IRA FLATOW: Good advice.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

IRA FLATOW: Good advice. A lot of good advice in the book, Gastrophysics, the New Science of Food, by Charles Spence, professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford, joining us in the evening time at Oxford. Thank you for taking time to be with us today. And have a good weekend.

CHARLES SPENCE: Thank you!

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