Do Rituals Performed When Eating Make Food Taste Better?

Eating food is associated with many rituals, even to the use of chopsticks to eat Asian Dishes, or bread to dunk in the gravy. It turns out that these rituals not only increase the enjoyment of the food but they actually make people feel that the food tastes better. New research to test this has shown that rituals intensify the flavour. When the rituals are removed the food tastes bland and uninteresting.

The researchers tested a wide range of behaviours from scraping wooden chopsticks to eating biscuits dunked in coffee or hot chocolate.

The first experiment involved more than 50 volunteer students that were divided into two groups:

=> The first group were asked to break a chocolate bar in half before unwrapping it, and then to slowly unwrap each half and then eat the two portions.

=>The other group simply unwrapped the bar and ate it in a one step process.

The group that used the 2-step ritual process scored the taste of the bar higher, than the other group who did not use a ritual.

The second experiment involved more than 105 students, half of which undertook a ritual for eating carrots that they were unfamiliar with.

The Results were:

=> Group one were asked to knock on the bench twice before taking a bag of carrots and then another two times followed by taking a deep breath, after picking them up and eating them. The other group only knocked once and were encouraged to add random gestures like turning their heads.

=> The group who performed the 2-knocks and deep breath routine every time they ate carrots reported that their carrots tasted nicer.

Various tests were done to eliminate extra time and other factors that may have influenced the results.

Other experiments showed that just watching someone else go through a ritual made the food or beverage taste better. Watching someone remove the foil around the top of a wine bottle and uncork it made the wine taste nicer. Similarly watching a person prepare a drink by mixing two ingredients made a difference, compared with offering a pre-mixed drink.

The research findings raise all sort of possibilities. Perhaps children would eat more fruit and vegetables if more rituals were introduced. Parents already use various games to encourage their children to eat. But this is mostly focused on keeping them focused and avoiding distractions.

There is undoubtedly a time element involved. For example, some people like to peel an apple with a knife so that the peel remains in one piece. By the time they have finished this process the person is really craving the apple and their digestive juices have started to flow.

Rituals may also be important in slowing people down and really savoring and enjoying their food. This is called mindful eating. When you eat slowly and introduce various rituals to increase your enjoyment of your food you tend to eat less. It also allows your hunger to subside.