Do appetisers alter mains?
Purity is an interesting concept. It carries with it connotations of perfection arising from isolation, freedom from adulteration, and utter integrity. We value purity highly yet the odd thing is we also know that the elements that comprise it donâ€™t make for the substance of life. Nothing really exists in isolation and certainly our experience of any thing doesnâ€™t happen in an unadulterated way. In this column for instance, we have noted regularly that how you taste your food is a highly contextual thing and a new study has highlighted this even further by showing that how much you enjoy your appetiser alters how you experience your main course.
The study involved subjects eating a main course of pasta with garlic and olive oil (pasta aglio e olio) and rating how much they enjoyed it. Prior to the main course the subjects ate either a mediocre appetiser or a more delicious appetiser. Both appetisers were bruschetta but the mediocre bruschetta was made with blended olive oil and dried basil while the better bruschetta was made with extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, and with the addition of balsamic vinegar and lemon zest.
As you would expect the better bruschetta was judged better by the subjects than the mediocre bruschetta but the next finding is troubling for restaurateurs everywhere. It emerged that the pasta dish, which was the same in both cases, was rated much more highly when consumed after the mediocre bruschetta.
Food, like every other experience, is contextual, and if you have just had a delicious appetiser the main course will suffer a little by comparison.
Does this mean you should serve oversalted vichyssoise with wilted parsley garnish so that your mixed vegetable hotpot main course tastes wonderful by comparison? Of course notâ€¦you just have to make sure your hotpot is the hottest hotpot it can be.
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