New Book: The Perfect Meal - The Multisensory Science of Food and Dining

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 - 10:45

What makes for the perfect dining experience? New book reveals how there is so much more to eating out than the food on our plates.

The Perfect Meal - The Multisensory Science of Food and Dining

By Charles Spence and Betina Piqueras-Fiszman

Published: 18th September 2014

What exactly makes the act of eating out so enjoyable? For some, it’s the flavour of the food, for others, the people they are sharing it with. The reality, however, is far more multisensory. Delivering great food means understanding how one sense affects another and knowing exactly how to bring each of those components together. Welcome to ‘gastrophysics’, a revolutionary new approach to the science of the perfect meal. Providing the latest insights from a diverse range of fields, including experimental psychology, design, neuroscience, sensory marketing, behavioural economics and the culinary and sensory sciences, Charles Spence and Betina Piqueras-Fiszman draw on expert opinion, delve into the latest research and make reservations at some of the world’s most cutting-edge restaurants in order to investigate of all of the elements that contribute to a diner’s enjoyment of a meal.

From the moment of arrival, the sensory impact of every aspect of the dining experience is examined; the colour of the plates and the shape of the glasses, the names used to describe the dishes and the choice of background music, the use (or not) of cutlery and the behaviour of the waiting staff. What happens when elements of theatre or magic are added to the gastronomic proceeding? How does eating in the dark affect the experience? Why is it that most people pay more for an Omelette à la Norvégienne than for a Baked Alaska (when they are one and the same dish)?

On reading this thought-provoking book what becomes clear is that getting to the heart of the perfect meal requires us to know about more than merely the preparation and presentation of the food on the plate and more than just which parts of the brain light up. It is a question of which other sciences are going to be relevant to developing our further understanding of what is really driving the diner’s experience. What’s more, not only are many of the insights things that all of us could implement at home, they also help us move towards healthier eating without having to give up on taste.

So, what is next? While some of the top chefs are already utilizing science in order to deliver multisensory dining experiences (think Heston Blumenthal’s lickable wallpaper), the real challenge is to bring the experience of the diner together with the rapidly evolving science of the kitchen. The authors fast forward to 2084 where they contemplate printable 3D pizzas, algal cuisine, restaurants that operate more like laboratories and more.

One thing is for sure, after reading this book eating out will never be the same again…. 

Charles Spence is Professor of Experimental Psychology and Head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford. He is an expert in the in the field of multisensory perception and neuroscience-inspired design and his research lies at the interface of modernist cuisine and commercial food and beverage innovation. Over the years he has worked with many of the world’s largest food and beverage companies and with several of the world’s top chefs.

Dr Betina Piqueras-Fiszman is a researcher in Consumer and Sensory Science. She is Assistant Professor at the Marketing and Consumer Behaviour Department at Wageningen University, Holland.

Download the press release about the launch of this book.

Buy a copy of the book from the Wiley website.

Read the Guardian article about this story.

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