You might have heard about molecular gastronomy, but there is a new kid on the block – or on the table for that matter. While molecular cooking investigated the understanding and application of scientific principles in combination with cooking methods and food preparation in general. If you have been following food trends over the last years, then you surely have come across culinary creations, such as ‘deconstructed cheesecake’ and the like.
Neurogastronomy on the other hand looks closer at what happens in our brains when eating certain foods. There is no need to worry about neurologically transformed food – if that is even possible. This relatively-new science came about in 2006 and is, similarly to molecular gastronomy, a link between science and the culinary world.
By studying the biochemistry of food preparation as well as odour images and the brain flavour system, scientists have experimented with the manipulation of these. This means they found a way of tricking our brains into believing that we eat something that we actually don’t. If you boil it down to its bare principles, you see that it isn’t very different than advertising.
It’s All About Perception
As we perceive the external world through our senses, our experience of this world can be altered by manipulating our senses and subsequently our brains. A similar process happens when taking drugs. However, neurogastronomy is far from being a drug neither is it all about genetically modifying carrots (for them to taste better). Neurogastronomy is about making our brains believing that the carrots taste better.
What’s the Benefit?
You rightly may ask – what’s the point of doing so? Scientists believe that, for one, the general dining experience can be vastly enhanced by ‘tricking our brains’ into believing we have a certain experience. Furthermore, it can also help medical health professionals in improving the quality of their patients’ lives.
An example of improving the dining experience is making dishes more appealing to colour blind people by specifying the weight, size and other elements of cutlery and matching it to a certain taste and flavour.
The perception of food starts with our eyes (which was tackled by molecular gastronomy) and our mouth (actually all senses). Both senses are obviously directly connected to our brain, triggering certain impulses. When eating a strawberry (if you have eaten it before), your brain expects a sweet taste. Sensory cells recognise and analyse the tastes in our mouth, transmitting them to our brain by activating nerve cells.
The idea behind neurogastronomy is to combine a very scientific approach with something that we already do on a daily basis – without science. A couple of years ago, a brave chef called Miguel Sanchez-Romera had opened New York’s first neurogastronomy restaurant. However, Romera was very short-lived and had closed in 2013. Although critics had already started hammering nails into the coffin of neurogastronomy, it seems to make a comeback.
Many restauranteurs and food scientists do believe in the power and the potential benefit of neurogastronomy and how it can challenge the way we live our life and how we eat our food. Apparently, when it comes to neurogastronomy, the sky is the limit.