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Friday, May 23, 2008

Do you taste what you see? What you remember? What you think you ought to?

We sometimes hear it said that human beings are far less sensitive than animals to smell and taste (the two senses being linked somewhat). One complexity is that cultural and personal ideas about what we are tasting play a major role in how we respond. In "Science: Could martinis be the secret of Bond's success?" (Telegraph, May 20, 2008), Roger Highfield offers some examples,
The appearance of a drink can also affect how happy we are with it: our brains make a pleasant association between the colours of ripening fruit and increased sugar content.

"Such colours, particularly bright reds, are especially powerful visual cues," says Prof Spence. "When incorporated into a drink, they can dramatically change the perceived flavour, as well as increasing the perceived sweetness by as much as 12 per cent."

French researchers tested this by using an odourless dye to colour white wine red. The wine tasters who tried the result used typical red wine descriptors, suggesting that its colour played a significant role in how they thought of it. "In cocktails, I'll look at how the very same colour can lead different people to think of, and therefore taste, very different flavours," says Prof Spence.

So did James Bond, world's best known secret agent, ace the cocktails? Apparently yes, and to celebrate the centenary of Bond novelist Ian Fleming's birth, Professor Charles Spence and Dr Andrea Sella will lecture on the proper way to prepare a cocktail he would love at the Cheltenham Science Festival in June. All for the good of science, of course.

Didn't you hear what I said? All for the good of ... okay, okay, it sounds to me like a good ol' bash too. Won't be quite the same without Fleming and Bond though.

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