Friday, June 28, 2013

taste and the senses...

Two things popped up on my horizon this week:  one is the article in Flavour that compares food taste with colour and shape of cutlery and the other is a restaurant that really tests your tasting skill based on your taste buds alone.

The first study was done by Harrar and Spence, psychologists from Oxford University to determine how participants experienced the taste of food on different types and shapes of cutlery.  The article is open access so you can read it in its entirety here:
Vanessa Harrar and Charles Spence, (2013) The taste of cutlery: how the taste of food is affected by the weight, size, shape, and colour of the cutlery used to eat it.  Flavour 2:21  doi:10.1186/2044-7248-2-21Published: 26 June 2013

Some cool observations were that yoghurt tasted thicker and richer from a plastic spoon and cheese tasted saltier when eaten off a knife!  The contrasting colours between food and utensil also made a difference to the perceived taste. The effects are possibly related to personal expectations, physical effects (i.e. how the utensil feels in the hand), and among other reasons.  

This could be tried at home with a simple test - taste some yogurt with different cutlery and see if you can taste a difference!

The second item is a different kind of restaurant experience - eat in the dark!

This socially conscious concept sprang from Jorge Spielmann, a blind pastor in Zurich who used to blindfold his dinner guests at his home so they could share his eating experience. In 1999, Spielmann opened Blindekuh (German for Blind Cow), a project aimed at teaching the sighted about the sightless world and providing jobs for blind people. "How lucky am I." Moe proudly states. "I get to do something I love and make a difference." from O.Noir website
These restaurants are staffed by blind waiters and the entire dining experience is done in pitch blackness  (you do order in a lighted bar and pay there too).  Without sight, the idea is that your other senses are more attuned to the nuanced taste of the food.  And a secondary lesson is understanding a bit more about what the blind experience daily. There are supposedly a number of restaurants in Europe and two in Canada, one in Montreal and one in Toronto (both called O.Noir).  Neat idea and one I am looking forward to experiencing!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Two things you do not want in the same sentence:

The curious case of the barbecue and the toilet seat.

This is a great article dissecting a newspaper article screaming about the hidden dangers of germs around the house and garden:

The average British barbecue contains TWICE as many germs as a toilet seat

  • Outdoor grill contains 1.7 million microbes per 100cm sq - 124% more than a toilet seat - and just 36% of people clean it more than twice a year
  • Bin lids have next highest bacteria count - a staggering 1.2 million per 100 cm sq, compared to 759,950 on a toilet seat
  • Microbes in the garden include e-coli, salmonella and listeria all of which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea



  • Carpets are a germ breeding ground and can be up to 4,000 times grubbier than your toilet seat.
  • A 2008 UK study found that  computer keyboards carry up to five times more bacteria than a toilet seat. 
  • Kitchen sinks typically contain more than 500,000 bacteria per square inch than a typical loo.
  • Kitchen sponges can contain a staggering 200,000 times more bacteria that your toilet.
  • Mobile phone have been found to be 500 times more germ-ridden than a typical loo.

But despite this we do not all get sick and, in fact, very few microbes and withstand the heat of a properly warmed up BBQ.  SO why the fuss?  To sell disinfectants!   Reader Beware!