As a listener to the Gastropod podcast and a viewer of various cooking shows including one of the author s associate Heston Blumenthal s shows , I found that the first chapter or so didn t give me a lot that I hadn t heard before However, after that it picked up, and overall I found it interesting The basic idea of the book is that our experience of, and behaviour around, food is unconsciously driven to an astonishing degree by the everything else apart from the food itself appearance, packaging, texture, sound, expectations, and various aspects of the environment I was aware of some of this through my study of nutrition, which included some papers on the ways in which people s food behaviours can be nudged by things like presenting multiple colours of food vs a single colour, or eating alone vs eating with others, but I was still surprised by the magnitude of the effects the author talks about A difference of 10 20% in amount consumed or satisfaction reported or some other measure was not uncommon, for multiple different interventions The author has definite opinions, and isn t shy about sharing them I didn t always agree, but I did always find them worth listening to I listened to the audiobook, which is read by someone with a fine Oxbridge accent, perfect for the author s prose he s a professor at Oxford University Even if you already know quite a bit about the psychology of food, you may well strike something new and surprising here Recommended. When the author is this pompous, and his writing style is this annoying, it is hard to enjoy a book, no matter what other merits there might be To illustrate my point, I have attempted to write my own excerpt of Spence s book as he would have done While there are some interesting points in this book for example, red plates make a person eat less My goodness it was filled with much superfluous and repetitive and unwelcome crap that only a restauranteur would find interesting Actually, I think you ll find only some will find it interesting Have I mentioned Heston Blumental When he invited me the author to the Fat Duck in 2008 I found aromas from the kitchen wafted into my very large and very sensitive nostrils don t tell me you re not impressed.Anyway, Heston have I mentioned him I don t think I ve mentioned him told me that I should write a book and then I proceded to shovel some scented gravel into my mouth My life has not been the same since Of course, you too can recreate this magic at home I know that you re absolutely dying to Aren t you absolutely dying to Aren t you wondering how I knew that Well Fear not For you can so very easily recreate this experience at a fraction of the price by dousing your own front drive gravel who would have thought it in men s cologne and sucking it just be sure not to suck for than 20 seconds or else you might become light headed Oh I am giddy with excitement More punctuation needed MORE PARENTHESIS NEEDED Even Heston told me that he was scared I was giving away trade secrets My wife gave me a slap on the wrist Goodness me.Did I mention Heston Blumenthal PS I ve scared myself at how good an impersonation this was The Science Behind A Good Meal All The Sounds, Sights, And Tastes That Make Us Like What We Re Eating And Want To Eat Why Do We Consume Percent Food When Eating With One Other Person, And Percent When Dining With Three How Do We Explain The Fact That People Who Like Strong Coffee Drink Of It Under Bright Lighting And Why Does Green Ketchup Just Not Work The Answer Is Gastrophysics, The New Area Of Sensory Science Pioneered By Oxford Professor Charles Spence Now He S Stepping Out Of His Lab To Lift The Lid On The Entire Eating Experience How The Taste, The Aroma, And Our Overall Enjoyment Of Food Are Influenced By All Of Our Senses, As Well As By Our Mood And Expectations The Pleasures Of Food Lie Mostly In The Mind, Not In The Mouth Get That Straight And You Can Start To Understand What Really Makes Food Enjoyable, Stimulating, And, Most Important, Memorable Spence Reveals In Amusing Detail The Importance Of All The Off The Plate Elements Of A Meal The Weight Of Cutlery, The Color Of The Plate, The Background Music, And Much Whether We Re Dining Alone Or At A Dinner Party, On A Plane Or In Front Of The TV, He Reveals How To Understand What We Re Tasting And Influence What Others Experience This Is Accessible Science At Its Best, Fascinating To Anyone In Possession Of An Appetite Crammed With Discoveries About Our Everyday Sensory Lives, Gastrophysics Is A Book Guaranteed To Make You Look At Your Plate In A Whole New Way I totally enjoyed geeking out with this book I even had someone on a flight ask me if I m a chef well, no sir, just a home chef because I was reading this book Some lessons I picked up surprise people with something unexpected at the start of the meal when you have a zillion courses, focus on the first and the last because that s what people will most likely remember play appropriate music Italian music with Italian food to make it authentic eat food with your hands whenever possible tell people the vegetables are organic there is such a thing as blue wine hang up menus from good restaurants you visited personalize the experience where you can Definitely for someone who is really into food than the average bear, and there were some very British quips throughout the last two chapters were kind of boring, but overall a really fun read if you re into psychology and gastronomy. I was halfway into this when I realized that its intended audiences is chefs and restauranteurs, as much or than the general reader eater, and Spence is sharing all kinds of behavioral tricks learned from gastronomics research on how to enhance a dining experience and not necessarily about the taste of the food While that was not uninteresting, some of it was common or trivial information I would have been a little bored with reading in a printed book But the English gentleman who reads the audiobook John Sackville reads this as if he s sharing a secret with the readers in a kind of whispery, exhilarated tone of voice that kept me entertained. Consider this a 101 level, not for those looking for a deep dive into the science at play As an American reader I sometimes felt a disconect with UK eating culture, which is the trough touchstone Spence uses, although other cultures are used often I also had to question the author s cultual bias multiple times while reading NYC chefs magically caused noisy restaurants the world over And you re not going to cite specifics, sure I would have liked on the lesser considered elements of food, like sound, touch, and public v private and perhaps scrapped other sections entirely, particularily the section on social dining Overal I liked it, but won t be pulling it off my self again. Can you believe researchers were paid to conduct a study in which they found that the sound a potato chip produces when it is broken into two affects how fresh people perceive it to be The experiment was nicknamed the Sonic Chip and its abstract can be found here Even astounding said study won its creator the Ig Nobel Prize for nutrition in 2008 Read about it here.This is just one of the studies cited in this book, which is full of other research and pseudo science telling us things most of us with even an ounce of common sense would already know, like how smell, sound, visuals, etc can potentially affect our perception of the foods we consume.The book title makes it sound like it s a whole new revolutionary field of hard science with groundbreaking revelations about food consumption and how it might affect us humans I hate to break it to you, butit isn tI was fooled Don t let that be you.This book reminds me of precisely why I chose NOT to do my postgrad in Psychology 17 years ago, having completed my Bachelor s in it and realising that there s a good reason why Psychology is classified as a soft social science as opposed to an actual science The last thing we need is for pseudo researchers to be wasting time and money researching useless stuff in the name of pseudo science and generating personal income for it DNF at 77% This was such a huge disappointment On paper, this book should have been right up my alley food, science, flavor and psychology all wrapped up into one In reality however, I thought it was absolutely horrible.The book is just plain boring Reading it felt like reading multiple essays that had no real connection with each other storyline that connected them, which made the book incoherent and hard to follow In my opinion, even non fiction books like this one should have a storyline or logical order to their chapters, and this book just did not have that.Further, I got VERY tired of reading on and on about Heston Blumenthal this, and his restaurant The Fat Duck that We get it, Charles You are a super cool guy who is friends with numerous Michelin star chefs Now please cut the BS and give us some interesting pop science instead of anecdotes about famous restaurants and the experiments you performed there.Also, can we please talk about the fact that physics has nothing to do with the science that is talked about in this book Sensory science is the accurate term for this field, so please don t make it seem impressive by calling it gastrophysics.All in all, I gave this book my best shot by picking it up multiple times between November 2017 when it first came out and now, but it is just not worth my or anyone else s time. The food here is terrible and in such small portions , angrily observed Woody Allen The facts about how we consume food and what influences us are in terribly small portions as well, I would add.Enter professor Charles Spence, who backs up every statement with 150 page notes and guides us through the differen stages of magic which happens without us even noticing it.We are manipulated by hacking our taste, smell, sight, sound, touch, but even so by personalized approach to the dinning or experiantial meals that we have not only in fine dinning places.Do read it if you like to think about what you eat, why it makes yoru spine tickle, why you enjoy some things and frown upon other Or if you run a restaurant, Jesus, rush to the online bookstore now.Random takeways to be used at a dinner party simply referring to a pasta salad as a salad with pasta just reversing the order of words makes people think of this dish as being healthier vanilla is in ice cream because when frozen you can t taste the swetness at all, but you can smell and vanilla smells of sweet Smell wins vs taste hands down round plates are sweeter than angular plates showing food in slow motion in advertising increases desirability because it seems fresher imagined consumption of the food reduces actual consumption the louder the music at the bar, the faster you drink extra letter in the name of the dish increases your willingness to pay by 6 cents That is one letter loud noise increases the taste of umami, decreases the taste of sweet.etc.And finally, remember the table is the original social network Do eat with the ones you love, you will love them So says prof Spence and we have no evidence to argue against it. Disclosure I received this book for free from GoodreadsThis book is sold on a lie There is no new information in here, and this is not a new area of science Everything in here is known by dietitians, people who study food and all that relates to it As you might imagine, that encompasses quite a wide range of information It certainly encompasses all that was included in this book Further, for something that the author attempts to claim is or less a new focus, he sure does reference a books worth of old information He is obsessed with Italian futurists from the 1930s, and near the beginning of the book references as far back as the late 1800s That doesn t sound new at all to me Sounds like something that has been going on quite a long time, as it should Food and how we approach and experience it has long been a crucial focal point of the human experience This fact has not gone on unnoticed, despite the author s attempts to convince us he has stumbled on to something new.My second point of derision with this false promotion is the b.s name he has made up for himself He deigns to call himself a gastro physicist Insert hard eye roll here This self applied label seems to infer the physics of the gut Nope Readers, just as this is not a new science, there are also no physics herein Strike that wholly from any ideas you might gain from reading the cover title The author attempts to explain why he chose this ridiculously inappropriate title for himself by describing what he is actually trained in, being the psychological elements of people and their physical spaces, surroundings, and general interactions with the physical world I accept that as being a real thing However, in conjuring a new title to impose on himself, he has decided he will not use the psych part of his applicable title, but will instead keep the physics part Herein lies the rub I suspect the author passed over psych for physics not because he deemed it less appropriate, but b c of the differing public perception each of those words holds In what seems to me a transparent move he has not even included the use of his professional abbreviations following his name on the book So, instead of being forthright with his subject being about the psychological dimensions of food consumption, he completely dropped that pre fix, but kept the wholly inappropriately utilization of physics It s b.s There is no way an Oxford professor did not know that this was misleading and sketchy as all hell.Those are personally my biggest problems with this book It s presentation is just shady as all get out, and I can t help but wonder if this is what the publish or die mentality of the academic world has led us into As far as the information presented, it is nothing new This is or less a collection of already available information put into a volume and sold This is the literary equivalent of a type of meta analytical overview of a segment of the world of human food that dietitian s already study, complete with professional journals and organizations and the like , minus the final sifting through of the data and statistical overview As such, there is nothing wrong with pulling this information into a singular volume and presenting it to the lay public, with a hard lean toward restaurateurs and those who sell pre packaged foods That could have been done in an honest and interesting way w o toying with the readers trust and mislabeling what already exists It could have been done without claiming newness of a field that has exited as long as the science of food and human consumption has existed, and already has an entire field of educated professionals dedicated to its study.I feel like it should be made clear that what this book does not deal with, despite the author s psychological background, are eating disorders and unhealthy personal relationships with food The only exception to that would be a few references toward how some of these larger ideas impact toward the many factors involved in 1st world lifestyle influenced obesity They are almost off hand remarks, and obesity itself is not a topic discussed per se, but the statements do exist in the textAs for how the book reads, it s pretty dull The writing is not bad, but it s not good The author comes off as arrogant, and if one has any previous knowledge of food matters, his level of expertise in this arena is sadly just crap I can not understand what in the world possessed him to put his name to this As I stated previously, this is primarily a gathering almost entirely of other people s work, presented as if he himself had something new here That said, a reader will repeatedly be told about the author s lab, the parties he has in it for research, and the big name, multi national junk food corporations his work benefits I was left with the impression that book was intended to boost the image of the author in this moneyed arena, and increase his leverage, name recognition, and b.s status It s a big sell for his image, and my final conclusion, in so many words, is that I declare shenanigansI came away with from this book having learned nothing new I do, however, question what has happened to Oxford to have allowed such an obvious intellectual poser to be the public product of their formerly reputable university It kind of makes me sad Despite appearances, money isn t everything, guys Once you lose your good standing you re done
Prof Charles Spence is an experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford He is the head of the Crossmodal Research group which specializes in the research about the integration of information across different sensory modalities.
- 336 pages
- Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating
- Charles Spence
- 15 September 2019 Charles Spence