Our eyes are such an essential part of our daily lives, but in more ways than you may have even thought about. For instance, your eyes largely influence how your brain responds to food – you really do eat with your eyes first.
Studies have shown that how food is presented, including the color of the dish it is served on, can influence your perception of the taste of the food. A recent study, conducted by Polytechnic University of Valencia and Oxford University (published in the Journal of Sensory Studies) found that hot chocolate served in an orange- or cream-colored mug made the beverage taste sweeter and was found to be much more aromatic. The study also found that strawberry mousse tasted better served on a white plate than on a black plate. There doesn’t seem to be a rule about the specific colors that make food taste better – it is just important to give your eyes something appealing to digest first, and that means using colors that make the food stand out.
Of course the food industry has known this fact for a very long time. The fact that a well shot food product with the correct lighting, background and accent pieces can actually make you want to go buy that food is testament to the power of our eyes when it comes to our appetite. The best chefs put as much effort into “plating” the food, as they do preparing it. It is important to give your eyes something to absorb, so it can send signals to your brain to want that food. Charlie Palmer, chef and owner of Aureole and the Charlie Palmer Steak restaurant in New York City says: “Everything looks better using brilliant white china. With a bright white plate, the food really stands out, the colors are more vibrant and the food more appealing”.
Layering the food to draw the eye’s attention to the focal point of the dish is another commonly used technique. Alex Guarnaschelli, acclaimed Iron Chef, author and restaurant owner, says: “I like to build a plate by layering all the components on top of one another. It traps the eater into getting all the flavors in every bite!” So if you have picky eaters at home, experiment with plating your food differently. Try a different color plate or bowl, and layer the food so the protein is on top of the side dish for instance.
Keep your eyes and your appetite healthy with regular visits to your ophthalmologist. Your stomach will thank you for it.