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emhahn

3 Most Important Elements of a Plate...

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Saliva contains the enzyme alpha-amylase which breaks down starches to maltoses. This process begins in the mouth and will be more rapid in someone who is salivating freely. Since salivation is stimulated by sight, appearance can affect the molecular composition of the food, if not on the plate, then as soon as it touches the tongue.

Sorry you got this bit wrong. You are describing a flaw of the taster, not the quality of the thing he is tasting. Ingredients have a chemical analysis independant of how they taste to someone. A good taster will not be fooled by the presentation. It will not make his glands salivate. It will be transparant. That is what he is trained to do. Seperate out the wheat from the chaff.

If I served you a bowl of berries and cream and then squeezed a fresh lemon over the bowl, it is certain that you would know the lemon juice is in the bowl. But you still might not be able to taste it because you do not have the capacity to. Tasting is about knowing the lemon juice is in there without seeing them squeeze anything. Even in the smallest proportions. Now of course enjoying it is about something else. And in that instance, seeing them squeeze the lemon can heighten expectations and influence how you think it tastes. But the lemon juice is in there whether you see someone put it in or not. And either someone can taste it or they can't.

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Saliva contains the enzyme alpha-amylase which breaks down starches to maltoses. This process begins in the mouth and will be more rapid in someone who is salivating freely. Since salivation is stimulated by sight, appearance can affect the molecular composition of the food, if not on the plate, then as soon as it touches the tongue.

Sorry you got this bit wrong. You are describing a flaw of the taster, not the quality of the thing he is tasting.

Unless your taster can control his parasympathetic nervous system (he can't) then he can't control whether he salivates or not.

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Repeat after me: the food stays the same; only we change.

I think I will now go split a few hairs while dancing on the head of a pin.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Saliva contains the enzyme alpha-amylase which breaks down starches to maltoses. This process begins in the mouth and will be more rapid in someone who is salivating freely. Since salivation is stimulated by sight, appearance can affect the molecular composition of the food, if not on the plate, then as soon as it touches the tongue.

Sorry you got this bit wrong. You are describing a flaw of the taster, not the quality of the thing he is tasting.

Unless your taster can control his parasympathetic nervous system (he can't) then he can't control whether he salivates or not.

Idiot, haven't you heard of 'Plotnicki's Dog'? Famous set of experiments in which very clever middle-class dogs were taught not to salivate in response to food, no mater how it was plated up.

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I am reproducing below some of the Q and A with Heston Blumenthal.

Heston:

"My drive now is the fascination of why one dish can taste fantastic to one person and disgusting to another and how we process the information from our mouths to our brain."

lizziee:

I am intrigued by your above statement. Do you have any preliminary findings as to why people "taste" things so differently?

Heston:

Eating is the only thing we do that involves all of the senses. I don’t think that we realize just how much influence the senses actually have on the way that we process the information from mouth to brain.

So many things influence the way that we perceive flavour. Even just the acceptability of food involves a complex process of evaluation.

Firstly, we register the basic tastes, sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami. These are then broken down into sub tastes, for example, spicy, metallic and astringent.

We then evaluate the intensity of the flavour and its aroma along with the texture and temperature of the food, something vital to whether we decide to like it or not. Up to now these factors have been directly linked to taste.

Now we have to process information that is indirectly linked to taste but directly linked to palatability. The colour and general appearance of the food and even its’ sound will have an influential role to play.

Finally, even with all of this information processed we have not quite finished; whatever our food may taste like, it still has to pass on the accessibility stakes!

Our health and mood will also directly affect whether or not we like a particular food, as will our environment and cultural background.

This complex process might explain why one food can taste so good to one person and so bad to another! It really is that subjective.

This might also explain just why our pre-conceptions can, on their own decide for us whether or not we like the taste of something.

Eating, above all should be a thing of pleasure and, dare I say it, fun! It should stir conversation and not stern silence. It should excite, charm and challenge and not become a chore.

There is alot of work being done at the moment on this very subject by people ranging from Nerologiists to Prof. of flavour technology and is something that warrants pages of text.

Later Jd asked Heston about his latest experiments:

Heston:

Hello Jd

There are quite a lot of things that we have been working on. Unfortunately, because of the lack of space in our kitchen, experimentation is extremely difficult.

A couple of years ago, I purchased a still for carrying out low temperature distillation. It is now at home in the cupboard under the stairs because there is no room for it anywhere!

As I have mentioned, we are still working on a one-mouthfull dish that delivers four flavours. These flavours however, will not be perceived together but consecutively which is something that we never normally experience. This dish will only work as one mouthfull as by the second mouthfull, the last flavours of the first mouthfull will still be there.

We are still working on the Nostalgia food idea (as explained on the web site) and I rekon that this will also lead into a potentially controversial and almost unresolvable debate. When is a chemical not a chemical?

Nostalgia foods to many people are in fact neither beef stew and dumplings nor bread and butter pudding but synthetically flavoured foods that in general were consumed as confectionary.

The question that for me begs to be answered is "when is a chemical not a chemical?"

If we smell balckcurrant in a red wine, it is not the smell of blackcurrant but a molecule or group of molecules that make up this aroma.

These are chemicals-produced naturally from the wine-making process.

Is it wrong therefore to use these chemicals in cooking?

Just a question at the moment but one that will surely stir up response and something that has been in my mind for a while now. I am not quite sure just how it will develop, but it will!

Right, back to other stuff that we are working on;

We have just started to serve an orange and beetroot jelly, served as a rectangular, terrine-like slice of jelly which is yellow-orange colour on the left and beetroot coloured on the right.

The yellow-orange colour which looks like orange is in fact made from yellow beetroot and the beetroot-looking jelly is in fact made from blood orange so the flavours expected in each colour are, in fact reversed.

It is quite a shock expecting to taste acidity in what looks like the orange jelly and instead tasting earthiness.

Other stuff that we are working on is nitrogen-poaching the sour.

We serve a palate-cleansing foam made from green tea, vodka and lime, foamed in a whipped cream cannister, as developed and popularised by Ferran Adria

I was talking with one of my chefs, Liam who suggested poaching this in nitrogen. Nitrogen is -190C and therefore very cold indeed.

By injecting a ball of mousse into this liquid, it poaches in about twenty seconds, being turned over half way through.

When eaten, the foam is frozen on the outside and nice and soft in the centre-much like a cooked meringue (but frozen).

When eaten, jets of vapour shot out of each nostril!

We have been looking at sound and just houw it affects the perception of texture.

When we crunch something like a polo mint, our teeth do not bash together. Our brain registers the crunch and turns off the signal that brings our teeth together, as needs to happen when we chew.

If we listen (through headphones) to crunching noises and chew (as is necessary with gum) at the same frequency, our brain tells our jaw to stop before it needs to (when chewing, our teeth need to come together) and therefore throws the whole perception of what the texture of the food in our mouth actually is.

We are still working on the idea of giving a dish with a set of headphones but it may be a while yet!

We are also doing a lot of work with aromas and the idea that the flavour of a dish can be changed by spraying while eating.

As well as this, I am trying to sort out a dish that gets sprayed at the table. It smells of one thing and tastes of another.

Other recent stuff that we have been looking at is injecting a raw egg through the shell with an essential oil of smoked bacon and boiling it. THe result is bacon and egg inside a boiled egg.

We are working on sucking out the yolk of a soft-boiled egg through the shell and ijecting it with a red wine sauce so you get, instead of eggs in red wine, red wine in eggs!

Injecting potato wit essential oil of butter and taking a carrot and garlic and injecting each of them witth the essential oil of the other provides very interesting results.

There is a lot more than this but I have to stop somewhere and the problem lies in how long it takes us to get a dish from experimentation to the table and also how ready a lot of the British public is for this kind of stuff.

I think at the moment not very.

We still have a problem with our meat being too pink and fish not being cooked enough and food not being piping hot!

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Repeat after me: the food stays the same; only we change.

I think I will now go split a few hairs while dancing on the head of a pin.

Sorry you didn't understand the science. I tried to make it as easy as possible.

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That seems perfectly reasonable. I for one agree with that. The condition of the taster doesn't change the molecules on the plate. Who would disagree?

Well nobody disagrees with this (I don't think?).

I do because it turns out to be wrong.

Saliva contains the enzyme alpha-amylase which breaks down starches to maltoses. This process begins in the mouth and will be more rapid in someone who is salivating freely. Since salivation is stimulated by sight, appearance can affect the molecular composition of the food, if not on the plate, then as soon as it touches the tongue.

See, Pedersen et al. Saliva and gastrointestinal functions of taste, mastication, swallowing and digestion, Oral Diseases 8, 117 (2002).

This process is, of course, entirely independent of the expertise of the taster.

OK. That’s that settled.

GJ, you seem to have changed the proposition and then disagreed with your changed version.

I tried to clarify Plotnicki's comment and wrote "The condition of the taster doesn't change the molecules on the plate". The last three words were deliberate.

You wrote that appearance could affect the composition of the food -- if not on the plate, then as as soon as it touches the tongue."

That's a different proposition. And I agree with it. There are even names of foods -- e.g. umeboshi, Japanese "pickled plums" -- that make me salivate just hearing them or thinking about the item.

I think this is what FG was getting at.


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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As I understand it, FG has been arguing that the taster can separate appearance and flavour. To demonstrate this he has, at a minimum, to show that there is no way at all in which the taster could alter the chemical composition of the food while he’s in a position to taste it. There is. So he’s wrong. QED.

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FG has been arguing that the taster can separate appearance and flavour.

Easily, for example with a blindfold.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Everyone please note. If you see someone in Ducasse wearing a blindfold it's a poor food critic practicing his art. The dedicated critic will always undergo sensory deprivation for the sake of an objective review uninfluenced by the fripperies of appearance. Though keep in mind that his review will be irrelevant to you since you will be influenced by the fripperies of appearance and will taste the food differently.

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What the blindfold demonstrates is that the food doesn't change. When the blindfold is removed, if a person's perception of the food changes it doesn't matter whether it's due to a purely psychological concern or a physical/chemical one like more saliva, altered body temperature, hastened breathing, or an allergic reaction. Those are all things that are simply acting to obscure the taste of the food. The food, however, has always been the same.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There is good to overwhelming scientific evidence that

1) Food does change because enzymes in saliva break down the starch.

2) Salivation does not ‘obscure the taste of the food’, it helps you taste the food.

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Of course a million things in the mouth change the food: chewing, salivating, how you breathe, etc. Nobody has disagreed with that, and we don't need any studies to prove it. You can just look at food being chewed in someone's mouth and see that something has been done to it. It's obvious -- an attribute of much of reality that is sorely missing from this discussion. The food is so obviously the same regardless of cosmetics that it's hard to imagine why this needs to be explained so many times.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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What the blindfold demonstrates is that the food doesn't change. When the blindfold is removed, if a person's perception of the food changes it doesn't matter whether it's due to a purely psychological concern or a physical/chemical one like more saliva, altered body temperature, hastened breathing, or an allergic reaction. Those are all things that are simply acting to obscure the taste of the food. The food, however, has always been the same.

What I find really strange, FG, is that you dismiss scientific studies and at the same time claim to be able to predict studies of your own without any intention, as far as I can see, to carry them out. In discussing your hypothetical scenarios a few pages back, you predict the results, that is, that trained chefs and critics will give the same grade to the same dishes food in both both blindfolded and non-blindfolded conditions. I would like to see results of real studies supporting your claim. Because at the moment you are asking people to accept your point of view based on your own subjective assessment of your skills.

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Of course a million things in the mouth change the food
The food is so obviously the same

:wacko:

I'll go back to curing cancer. It's simpler.

Edited for pith.


Edited by g.johnson (log)

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It just so happens that the third scenario mirrors your point of view:

"Person (this time a chef or someone trained to taste food dispassionately) is given 10 plates of food, 5 of which are decoys and 5 of which are the same thing but cosmetically altered in various subtle and not-so-subtle ways. The person gives the exact same score to each of the similar plates and says, "This experiment is dumb because 5 of those plates were the same. Do you think I'm stupid?"

Same person is blindfolded and the experiment is repeated. The person gives the exact same score to each plate and storms out, yelling, "Don't waste my fucking time."

Lots of trained tasters are tested, and the results are pretty much the same".

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Steven, how about the example of Grant Achatz's lobster with rosemary vapour? Recall that boiling water was poured over rosemary branches while the diner ate the lobster.

Or a dish we were served at dinner last night in Roses, Spain, where each diner was handed a rose impregnated with an essence of roses, and asked to sniff the rose while sipping from a cup of liquid (the full description to follow). It was the weakest of the 30 dishes at the dinner, but, not surprinsgly, the scent did change our perceptions of the taste of the liquid. The concept was viable, but the execution just a bit flawed.

That's an obvious one, since the olfactory and gustatory senses are known to be closely linked. Is it such a leap that auditory or visual sensations, or the diner's cognitive state, should also impact the perceived taste of the food?


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Or a dish we were served at dinner last night in Roses, Spain, where each diner was handed a rose impregnated with an essence of roses, and asked to sniff the rose while sipping from a cup of liquid (the full description to follow).

A mere distraction. Pass the nose plugs.

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As I understand it, FG has been arguing that the taster can separate appearance and flavour. To demonstrate this he has, at a minimum, to show that there is no way at all in which the taster could alter the chemical composition of the food while he’s in a position to taste it. There is. So he’s wrong. QED.

I don't think he has argued that at all. I think he has argued that nothing about a tasters externalities changes the physical food. It just changes the taster's perception of the food. I have added to this point that if externalities change the way a taster percieves something, that is a flaw of the taster and that needs to be corrected with a new and different taster.

I also think that you are all putting a lot of stock in externalities making a big difference. Show me a scientific study that shows that expert tasters, listeners, viewers or smellers are affected at the same rate as novices? All of your studies are going to be based on non-expert opinions.

In discussing your hypothetical scenarios a few pages back, you predict the results, that is, that trained chefs and critics will give the same grade to the same dishes food in both both blindfolded and non-blindfolded conditions. I would like to see results of real studies supporting your claim. Because at the moment you are asking people to accept your point of view based on your own subjective assessment of your skills.

This statement is one of the great fallacies that people who are outside of the trade, yet possibly very expert on an amateur level, make all of the time. Go on a business trip with my friend Joe the wine importer. Go with him into the cellar of one of his vignerons, who has a 5 hectare parcel of chenin blanc growing in the Loire, and where he segregates the grapes into 10 batches and vinfies each batch individually. Joe, blindfolded, by tasting samples from each barrel, can tell you which site in the vineyard each sample comes from.

I must know 50-100 people who can do what I just described. And I'm not talking about professionals. There are countless professionals who can do it. I am talking about serious and commited amateurs. What I want to know is in light of all the people who can do it, and in light on all of the literature written by people who do do this, how can you refute it isn't true? By what lab rats did? Or by what people who normally eat in Red Lobster and McDonald's were affected by? We are talking about food for connoiseurs. And unless you use other connoiseurs as guinea pigs, I think the sciene you offer as evidence is gobbledigook. Because indeed, if you ran the same tests with expert tasters, your results would probably be much different.

How exactly was Pavlov's dog trained before he was tortured to death?

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Maybe I simply don't get this whole thread but why do restaurants like FL, Trio and El Bulli go through all the trouble of over the top presentation with vapors, foams and interesting serving utensils if all they're doing is getting "flawed" tasters to think their food tastes good?

Aren't they in fact doing those things to make their food taste better?


Edited by sammy (log)

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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Steven, how about the example of Grant Achatz's lobster with rosemary vapour? Recall that boiling water was poured over rosemary branches while the diner ate the lobster.

Or a dish we were served at dinner last night in Roses, Spain, where each diner was handed a rose impregnated with an essence of roses, and asked to sniff the rose while sipping from a cup of liquid (the full description to follow).

Those are examples of theater, not of food. Yes I know that they both use food as the vehicle for their theater, but it sort of reminds me of sensaround in the Earthquake movie. You are either in the earthquake or you aren't. The rest is make believe. And I've had the ChefG lobster dish and it's very good. But it didn't make me run home to tell my Bubby that she should serve me a matzoh ball in a small dish, which is sitting in a larger soup bowl, and then to pur intense chicken broth into the soup bowl so everytime I bend over to take a bite of the matzoh ball I am inebriated with the aroma of chicken soup.


Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)

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Steve,

Believe it or not there was an experiment performed with expert wine tasters where they were fooled by appearance alone.

This is from an article by Peter Barham (Discovery Communic). http://www.discoveryeurope2.com/kitchen/mo...gastronomy2.htm

"Recent scientific research has revealed just how complex our sense of flavour really is. There is no single sense that defines flavour - although we perceive the flavour of food in our mouths it is our brains that determines the flavour."

"But how we use all this information is greatly influenced by the other senses. For example, if you taste a wine you will be influenced by its colour. Indeed a recent experiment fooled all the experienced wine tasters. In this experiment the tasters were asked first to taste 6 white wines and describe the flavour. They described the flavours using words like "refreshing", "strawberry","citrus", etc, to identify different notes in the aroma - these are words frequently used to describe white wines. Then when asked to identify the wines the tasters were able to correctly identify the grape and the region - some even giving the exact vineyard and vintage. Next a trick was played - the same 6 wines were served again, but this time with a little inert red food dye added. This time the tasters used completely different language to describe the flavour -"woody", "tannic", "powerful", etc. all words associated with red wines. Then when asked to identify the wines all plumped for red grape varieties and a few ventured opinions on actual wines they believed they had just tasted. However, when the experiment was repeated again - this time with the tasters blindfolded - they once again got the answers correct."

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Jonathan's mention of Chefg at Trio is an important distinction to make in this discussion.

First Chefg's words:

"I believe people do not come to Trio for nourishment or sustenance. I doubt whether they come because they are hungry. People are making reservations long in advance, how do they know they will be hungry? In fact I would say people plan their schedule to become intentionally hungry to go to high end restaurants to eat. If you make a reso at TFL 2 months before you actually dine, I would think you will plan your meals the day of your reservation accordingly as to not spoil your dinner.

I hope I am not giving the wrong impression about the food served at Trio, it is not all vapors, and stamp sized pieces of paper. It is one of our goals that people leave satiated. And we do so with unique twists on fairly common ingredients, presented in an artistic manner.

I think the more we intellectualize, the closer to my goal we are. We are crossing the line of "a meal" or "dinner" and moving into the realm of entertainment: in the forms of theater, education, discussion, visible art. The overall experience becomes so fullfilling on so many different levels it could become the ultimate form of recreation. OK, that might be a stretch, but you see what we are pushing towards.

It is Chefg's goal to cross that line from meal or dinner to entertainment. If that is his goal, then presentation becomes a vital and important aspect of his cuisine. Take it away and what is left is not what Chefg wants to achieve.

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Liz - No I believe it. And I believe Yvonne when she says that the tests that were run affected expert tasters too. But all that proves is that if you change the environment that someone has learned how to do something in, they have to relearn how to do it. I don't find that point substantive in any way. People are trained to analyze things taking specific steps. For people to fail at their expertise because we have changed one of the steps, only tells us that people are human, and tells us nothing about what their skillsets are.


Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)

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