Optical factors influence diner’s response to food

Optical factors influence diner’s response to food

Deborah Walker

(Nov. 7, 2014) To understand the complete theory of cookery, one must assess the visual presentation and its influence on the entire dining experience.

Research has demonstrated that a variety of optical factors, such as the culmination of colors and balance of the components on a plate, can influence a diner’s perception and response to food. Assessment is subjective and plays a critical role in stimulating the appetite.

Sense memory, the interaction of the senses and remembrance, can trigger reminiscences which unconsciously affect the materiality of food and its dynamic character. This psychological factor may seem trivial but is a key aspect when forming one’s personal opinion. Remembrances have a profound affect and are privy to the provisions of volition.

Marcus Gavius Apicius is believed to have been a Roman gourmet, who lived sometime in the 1st century AD. The cookbook Apicius, which is generally attributed to him, is one of the earliest documented claims that refer to “people eating with their eyes.” This paragon of truth is the focal point of the following discussion and based on an article titled, “A taste of Kandinsky.”

Sixty participants consisted of 30 males and 30 females. The stimuli consisted of the same set of ingredients presented in one of three different visual arrangements. The visual arrangements characterizing the three conditions contained the exact same quantity of exactly the same ingredients.

The “first (regular)” presentation consisted of a mix of the ingredients, which were simply placed in the middle of the plate. The “neat (second)” presentation was composed of ingredients that were methodically placed side by side without touching each other. There was a thought process behind the arrangement but no artist theme prevailed. The “third (art-inspired)” presentation consisted of the ingredients being placed in a very specific manner; more specifically, the positioning of the individual foods were inspired by one of Wassily Kandinsky’s abstract paintings.

The results revealed a significant partiality in the tastiness of the art-inspired presentation. Participants of the study also acknowledged they would be more willing to pay more for that particular dish. This study is not fact but simply a survey; but it does support the idea that an aesthetically pleasing product delivers a higher degree of pleasurable food experiences. The study was lengthy and the full text can be reviewed online.

Bourbon praline cake also deserves high marks. The crunchy praline topping nestled on a soft bourbon cake is indicative of this season’s best.

The addition of vanilla ice cream is always a favorite. If one wants to bring in the “wow” factor, serve a shot of Jefferson’s Presidential 21 Year Old Bourbon. But I might warn you, it’s quite pricey. Enjoy! This recipe was adapted from the Food Network.

Bourbon Praline Cake

Praline Topping

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ¼ cups pecans, toasted


1 ½ cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon fine salt

1/3 cup buttermilk at room temperature

3 tablespoons bourbon

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature

½ cups pecans, toasted and chopped

vanilla ice cream (optional)

Shot of Jefferson’s Presidential Select 21 Year Old Bourbon (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan and then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Butter the paper generously. Wrap the outside of the pan with tin foil. Prepping the pan properly for the praline helps reduce the clean-up process which can be quite messy and allows the praline to release easily for future use.

2. Start to make the praline layer by melting 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar, corn syrup, kosher salt and vanilla. Spread in the prepared pan and scatter the pecans on top; set aside.

3. Make the cake by whisking the flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk and bourbon in another bowl.

4. Beat the butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 10 minutes. With the mixer on low, beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Fold in the pecans.

5. Pour the batter into the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a rack for about 30 minutes.

6. Invert the cooled cake onto a platter. Carefully remove spring form ring and parchment paper and top cake with praline layer. Serve with vanilla ice cream and a shot of Jefferson’s Presidential Select 21 Year old Bourbon.

Secret Ingredient – Risk.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

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