Among the finer pleasures of life, the snap of a fresh carrot or the glug of a chocolate fountain are arguably among the finer ones. Research is increasing on variables that lead individuals to choose specific types and quantities of food, and previous studies have included taste , texture, meal size and food selection among the sensory signs that influence satiety or feeling satisfied with food.
But what triggers the crackling and popping of our treats, and exactly why do we care? It may be that sound is an indication of texture and therefore consistency. Texture will show how new food is. Instead of yielding without a snap, if an apple cracks crisply when bitten into it, you know that’s a positive sign.
When they are bitten, cut or plunged into a spoon, even soft foods such as bread, bananas or mousse may make subtle noises, and the promotion of sounds in the food industry will soon be growing in a big way. Food modifications may also be used to help make food more pleasurable for the elderly whose senses can decrease overall.
Perception can also be affected by external sound, and it does not take much effort. Even Häagen-Dazs, an ice cream company, has released an app where consumers can scan their ice cream carton and listen to a violin concerto scheduled to soften the ice cream.
A survey of 140 food scientists in 2003 found that they rated sound as the least significant attribute that contributes to taste. Yet we could be listening to our food more frequently as science continues to emerge and the industry continues to experiment.
Here are some of acoustics involved in your favorite fare. Close your eyes and imagine them!
For their mouthwatering sizzle, sausages are renowned. People assume this hiss is caused by fat, but it is the water in the dogs that spits as it transforms into vapor. Kielbasa is almost 4 dB quieter today than it was in the 1950s. More meat and fillers mean that like they used to, bangers don’t sputter.
Atoms bunch together on the surface of a watermelon and scatter apart when tapped, creating sound waves. It’s free of any air pockets, and low, meaning the flesh is dense and ripe. A great gourd can ring uniformly. That’s why before purchasing, you should always tap.
Potatoes have lots of tiny cells of starch. Those bits become dry and brittle when fried. Multitudes of cells packed together comprise a single chip. Bite into an entire crisp, and in a fraction of a second, the chomping force creates thousands of tiny splits, delivering the signature snap.
Popcorn Yay! The starch spreads as a kernel cooks. The creation presses against the pot, causing friction that propels it upwards and causes a bang. Then the starch cracks the outer hull, opening water vapor pockets in the kernel. It makes the hallmark pop as the liquid escapes.
What about chewing on your own? In three different experiments, researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) and Colorado State University (CSU) looked at the “food sound salience” effect. One experiment found that intake can be decreased even by encouraging people to think of the sounds of eating, such as through ads. Participants ate snacks in one study while wearing headphones that played noise at varying volumes.
Results showed that louder noise masked the chewing rhythm, allowing more to be consumed by participants. Those with the loudest noises in the group ate four pretzels, while the ‘quiet’ group ate 2.75 pretzels. In other words, the more aware an individual is of the sound that their food makes when they are eating, the less likely they are to eat. This is called the “Crunch Effect” by the writers.
Masking the sound of consumption, such as watching television at mealtimes, eliminates one of the food-related senses. This can contribute to greater consumption of food. Although one less pretzel does not seem like a big deal, over time, the quantity will add up. In short, don’t sit down to eat your dinner in front of the telly.
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