From experience, most of us know that many factors can alter the flavor of a dish. Our cultural background and perceptions can make our omnivorous mind favor certain foods over others. The way we taste is also intertwined with the chemical reaction between ingredients, and even the music around us. Now, research suggests the type of material cutlery is made of can affect the flavor of food.
After three years of experiments on humans guinea pigs, London researchers found that people could distinguish the flavors of different metals in their spoons. The findings also revealed that some metals pair better with certain foods. For instance, zinc plated spoons are a no-no when paired with cod, but copper brings out the flavor of mango.
These findings were made by Dr. Zoe Laughlin and Professor Mark Miodownik, co-directors of the Institute of Making at the University College London. The professors and their colleagues took their experiment one step further and held the first-ever spoon tasting dinner at Quilon, a Michelin starred restaurant in London.
Notable guests included food conoisseurs like Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, and Chef Heston Blumenthal, whose restaurants Dinner and The Fat Duck ranked 9th and 13th, respectively, on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list of 2012.
The spoon-tasting dinner featured seven Southwestern Indian dishes paired with beers. Before eating, the 15 guests began the meal by sucking on spoons. Each spoon was engraved with the periodic table symbol corresponding to the element it was plated with: zinc, tin, copper, silver, gold, chrome and stainless steel.
The most interesting thing about the dinner were the discoveries. For instance, copper and zinc are bitter metals that pair well with sour foods like mango chutney. Silver is dull and stainless steel is metallic, while gold was the spoon of choice for desserts.
Does this mean we'll be rushing out to buy gold plated spoons for dessert? There's no need to get so fancy just yet. But knowing that flavor has to do with so much more than just food really leaves the door open for many possibilities.