The Cutlery You Use Changes the Way Your Food Tastes

Be careful next time you reach for a spoon: your choice of cutlery could significantly affect the way your food tastes.

That's according to new research published in the open access journal Flavour, which suggests that the size, shape and color of cutlery changes the way we perceive. Performing a number of experiments, the researchers showed that the choice of utensil has a dramatic difference on our appreciation of food.

In one experiment, the researchers altered the weight, size and 'fanciness’ (that's a technical term...) of spoons, then got participants to rate the density, expensiveness, and sweetness of each yogurt (really, they were all the same yoghurt). In another, the yoghurt was tasted using either red, blue, green, white, or black spoons (otherwise identical in size and shape). And a final experiment, participants tasted two types of cheese using forks, spoons, knives and toothpicks.

The results? Oddly, eating with a heavy spoon made yogurt seem cheaper, less dense, and generally less likeable—but also sweeter. When eating from a blue spoon, participants found the same yoghurt saltier; when eaten from a white spoon it seemed sweeter. As for the cheese experiment: participants found that cheese eaten from a knife tasted saltier, while there was little difference between eating from a spoon or fork.

The overall message? Taste isn't dictated just by our tastebuds, but how we eat, too. The researchers explain:

“How we experience food is a multisensory 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. Subtly changing eating implements and tableware can affect how pleasurable, or filling, food appears."

And while it's all incredibly interesting, it could be of some health benefit, too. If we perceive food eaten from knives and blue spoons as saltier, for instance, then the effect could be exploited to try and help reduce our sodium intake. And that can only be a good thing. [Flavour via Discovery]

Image by USDAgov under Creative Commons license