When you share a meal, what are the most important aspects? That feeling of wanting something different for dinner might be satiated by changing how we approach our meals on many different levels—not just the recipe.

Do you spend time meticulously curating a playlist to make sure the atmosphere and “mood” are right for the evening? Do you break out the heavy silver for guests?

What about candles? Do you light candles to greet your guests not only with a warm smile, but with an inviting aroma, a flickering light, a scent catered to the season?

As it just so happens, all of these decisions you may add innumerable dimensions to the meal as a whole.

Something different for dinner might mean different music.

Did you know that what might seem like no more than background music can actually change the way guests think your food tastes? Oxford University researcher Charles Spence coined the term ‘sonic seasoning’ to describe this exact phenomenon. To some degree, our experience of taste and sound are connected.

In other words, certain sounds can enhance or minimize our experience of certain flavors. A violin screeching emphasizes a sour taste in our food, for example. Soft, melodic piano emphasizes sweetness over bitterness.

You’ve probably experienced how the flavors of a meal change based on a wine pairing. But who knew that something different for dinner might mean a different playlist or soundscape?

Silverware and scents, too, change how you and your guests experience a meal. Heavier silverware alters guests’ perceptions of the amount of time it took you to put together the meal, changing the “value” of their experience.

The scents that greet your guests at the threshold of your home can prime their appetite. They might also hint at what lays ahead and subconsciously prepare them to feel comforted, surprised, taken aback, or immersed in the flavors that await them around the table.

Try something new with Multi-sensory Dining.

Perhaps the key to a different dinner idea is multi-sensory. Multi-sensory Dining explores the real world applications of texture, sight, sound, and aroma in relation to taste.

This science offers us clues as to how we can make a meal more immersive and pleasurable for ourselves and our guests, or simply experience something new and different in the food we eat—even if the recipe is an old favorite!

The applications of this so far inexact science aren’t just geared towards making a meal more immersive and pleasurable. Multi-sensory Dining might be applied in the future to help reduce sugar and sodium intakes in one’s diet. Behavioral nutrition could employ texture, sound, and aroma to cue diners into perceiving sweeter, saltier, or more savory foods, whatever the case may be.

Interested in trying these experiments for yourself? Check out our primer on multi-sensory dining techniques.

Join or connect with EAT for something different.

Multi-sensory Dining will play a big role in our March 15 event, PERFORM, in Richmond, Virginia at the Firehouse Theatre. Learn more our reserve your seats, today.

To hear about our events when they are announced, subscribe to receive our emails. It’s a simple way to support the E.A.T. Foundation’s mission, and we like to think our emails are something a little different in your inbox.

Zach McElgunn & Kurt Jensen
EAT Foundation