Beauty Is Belly Deep: Good-Looking Food Tastes Better, Says Science

Photo by <a href="http://www.flavourjournal.com/content/3/1/7">Flavour Journal</a>

No, you're not being shallow. According to a new study by the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford, pretty presentation of food has a direct influence on your taste buds.

Fancy chefs and foodies have always believed that artfully arranging food on a plate enhances the experience of eating it. But is this more fluff than science? As it turns out, they might be on to something: a study from a team of researchers that found not only does beautiful food taste better, people are willing to pay more for them, too.

Photo by <a href="http://www.flavourjournal.com/content/3/1/7">Flavour Journal</a>

The researchers presented three different visual arrangements of a salad to a group of men and women. Each arrangement contained identical ingredients: portobello and shimeji mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower sprouts, endive, peppers, mango, beet and carrot purees, cauliflower and lemongrass creme, mushroom essence with squid ink, pepperoncino oil, olive oil, and sea salt.

One arrangement was tossed on a plate like a typical salad. Another had all the ingredients laid out separately and neatly. And the last salad was styled to look like artist Wassily Kandinsky's famous "Painting Number 201."

In a "restaurant-like" setting (a dark room illuminated with a lamp), study participants were presented with one of the three salads and asked to rate it based on appearance and then on taste.

Even without being told that the Kandinsky salad resembled a work of art, that arrangement scored highest in both presentation and taste by a margin of 18%. Not only that, the participants also expressed a willingness to pay twice as much for that salad than for the regular and neat salads.

"Diners intuitively attribute an artistic value to the food, find it more complex and like it more when the culinary elements are arranged to look like an abstract-art painting," according to the researchers. "More importantly, people are ready to pay more for the food when it is presented in an aesthetically pleasing manner, both before and after trying it."

As to why that might be, University of Oxford professor Charles Spence, who worked on the study, told the BBC, "It may also be when you see that presentation you can see that someone has put effort into it and that may convey expectations and impact on the experience."

All the chefs out there, are you taking notes?

Read more from the study at Flavour Journal.

About the Author

Linda Ly runs the award-winning blog Garden Betty, which chronicles her adventures in the dirt and on the road. From her South Bay abode, she shares farm-to-fork recipes, raises backyard chickens, bakes bread and makes jam and sti...
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