A GOOD APPETISER COULD MAKE YOUR MAIN COURSE LESS ENJOYABLE

A GOOD APPETISER COULD MAKE YOUR MAIN COURSE LESS ENJOYABLE

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Are you a chef? Or perhaps you like to cook for friends? Here is a secret weapon: if you make your appetiser a little bit boring, your guests will perceive your main to be much more awesome than it is.

A good or mediocre appetiser has the potential to significantly change how the main course is enjoyed, according to one Drexel food science professor.

Jacob Lahne, PhD, an assistant professor in the Centre for Hospitality and Sport Management, recently found that a comparatively good appetiser could make people enjoy the main course less than if it were preceded by a mediocre appetiser.

Lahne tested and analysed subjects’ hedonic (liking) responses to a main dish of “pasta aglio e olio” (pasta with garlic and oil) after they had either a good or mediocre bruschetta appetiser. The good bruschetta was made with extra ingredients like balsamic vinegar and lemon zest, as well as fresher and better quality ingredients, like extra virgin oil and fresh basil compared to the blended olive oil and dried basil in the mediocre bruschetta.

The result? The good bruschetta was judged better than the mediocre bruschetta, but the pasta dish was liked more when preceded by the mediocre appetiser. One possible explanation for this result is that the very nature of the appetite-whetting first dish sways the consumer to compare it with the subsequent courses, to the latter’s potential detriment.

“It’s always worth remembering that our experiences are contextual. That is, what we like and don’t like, or taste and don’t taste, is not objective, but related to the environment, our state of mind, and many other variables. If you have a fantastic appetiser and then the main seems lackluster, that could be because of this type of contrast effect. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fantastic appetisers!” said Lahne.

Lahne specialises in sensory evaluation, or the part of food science dedicated to understanding human sensory responses to foods (among other products). He says that there had been little research on how liking one dish might be influenced by other sequential foods in the meal until this study. “I’ve always been interested in trying to understand the food choices people make,” Lahne said.

So next time you are cooking for friends or people you want to impress, make your starter as boring as hell. Then your main will be heroic (as long as you don’t set that lamb roast on fire).

Go forth and cook, people.

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