Either way, you don’t need gimmicks to marvel at the intricate sequence of stimuli that conjures the overall flavour of, say, a Twix. I used to chip the chocolate off the sides with my incisors, relishing the moment each tiny slab broke free and began to melt in my mouth. From the pleasing rustle and tear of the packet, to the sweet, creaminess that still coated the mouth after swallowing, each of my senses were tickled. “They’re interacting and modulating one another,” says Professor Barry Smith of London University’s Centre for the Study of the Senses. “It’s actually one of the more complicated things the brain has to do, to put all this together.”
First impressionsWe will only touch food and drink that meets our rigorous aesthetic standards. When it comes to wine, for example, “the looking element is really important,” says Emily O’Hare of London’s River Cafe.
Taste budsWhen food enters the mouth, taste, smell and touch fuse together to produce that “unique flavour experience,” as Smith has it. So, for instance, you know something is menthol flavoured when you’re getting a minty aroma, bitter taste and cooling sensation. The old tongue map, which has sweet at the tip, salt either side of the tip, sour further along the sides and bitter at the back, has been roundly rubbished.
Sound effectsCredit in crunch: a 2008 study showed that people think Pringles “taste” stale when they’re less crunchy.