Monday, June 9, 2014

Rant: Eating With Your Ears

What might entice you to try a new food? Or turn you off from trying it?

Though tasting a new dish is the only way to know whether you actually enjoy it or not, you still have to get to that point in the first place. It is not enough that a dish tastes delicious. There are numerous other factors which might prevent a potential diner from tasting a new item. For example, looking at a new dish, you might find it appealing or not. Presentation can be very important. Does it look like a plate of sludge or a piece of art? Your nose might also turn you onto a dish, as its enticing aromas caress your nostrils. Or it might smell like something rancid meaning you will push the dish away.

Were you aware that your ears also play a part in what dishes you will or will not taste?

".., but often farmers and distributors don’t realize how much a bad name can be a roadblock to public acceptance . A name gives a food its identity and meaning. Before people taste it, smell it, or pick it up, they hear the name and make a quick calculation whether it sounds tasty or not."
--The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax

The simple name of a food can play a major role in its acceptance or not. The name needs to sound appealing, to sound delicious. If the name sounds too strange or off putting, then there are plenty of people who will avoid it. It may seem silly that people won't try a food just because of its name, but it is the truth. And there is some science behind this matter as well.

".., successful food names whip up an instantaneous expectation of how the food will taste by stimulating neural network associations in the brain—basically connecting the dots between memories, images, and sensations to create an idea of what that food will be like before you even see it."
--The Tastemakers

Let's consider some examples. Back in 1978, "canola" oil was named, using a mashup of "Canadian" and "oil." Why was that done? Well, the oil was developed from a new strain of rapeseed but that word would have brought with it too many negative emotions. So, a change was desired and ultimately they chose canola, and its popularity remains high. I have written previously about the Patagonian Toothfish, which Americans know as Chilean Sea Bass. It was thought Americans wouldn't find "Toothfish" appealing, so an enterprising fish monger decided to rename it for an American audience. That is also why some restaurants and fish mongers refer to Sable Fish as Butter Fish, thinking the later term is more appealing. Consumers are also more likely to try a dish of sweetbreads rather if they were called thymus glands.

What food have you shied away from tasting merely because you dislike its name? Are there foods you think should be renamed so they would appeal to more people?

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