If I blindfolded you and said there was a bowel of cherry Jell-O in front of you and you ate it, would you think you ate cherry flavored Jell-O? What if we took the blindfold off and you could see it was red Jell-O? Would you still think it was cherry flavored? Well, a Navy cook on a battleship during WWII did just that! After accidentally placing double the order for lemon Jell-O many sailors were begging for another flavor. The most requested flavor was cherry. Fear of having a ship full of angry sailors the cook poured red food coloring into the lemon Jell-O and served it as “cherry” flavored Jell-O (there was no difference in the ingredients from lemon to “cherry” except the color). Guess what happened? The sailors loved him for it! They honestly thought they were eating cherry Jell-O instead of lemon Jell-O. We do the same thing every day.
Instead of a Navy cook, we have titans of industry preparing, packaging, and promoting foods that otherwise might not taste the way we think. Words have meaning and that couldn’t more true when it comes to our food. Why? With few extreme examples, for the most part, we taste what we think we taste….just like the sailors in WWII. Psychologists have dubbed this “confirmation bias” and “expectation assimilation.” To prove the point scientists served people slices of the same brownie tray. However, each person was served with a different serving piece: napkin, paper plate, and fine china. When asked how much they would pay for the slice of brownie those with napkins said 53 cents. Those with paper plates would pay 73 cents. Those with fine china would pay $1.27 (that’s nearly TRIPLE the price!). This goes to show the importance of “presentation” when it comes to enhancing our dining experience. Five-star restaurants the world over have fine-turned this practice.
But, what about the name of a food? We’ve seen how food is presented can heavily influence our taste but what about the name we give food? Let’s look at a few examples and tell me what you think:
- Red Beans w/ Rice
- Seafood Filet
- Grilled Chicken
- Chicken Parmesan
- Chocolate Pudding
- Zucchini Cookies
Some of these items might sound just fine to you. If you’re on the fence, probably not so much. Don’t like them from the start? Forget about it!
Now, let’s “spice” up the names of these foods and then let me know what you think:
- Traditional Cajun Red Beans w/ Rice
- Succulent Italian Seafood Filet
- Tender Grilled Chicken
- Home-Style Chicken Parmesan
- Satin Chocolate Pudding
- Grandma’s Zucchini Cookies
By now some of you are salivating. I know I am! Heck, I don’t even know what a “grandma’s zucchini cookie” would taste like but I’d give it a shot instead of just “zucchini cookies.”
Food labels are one of the best sales tactics, aside from taste and smell, which get us to purchase different foods at the supermarket and in the restaurant. The 4 most common methods are: Geographic Labels, Nostalgic Labels, Sensory Labels, and Brand Labels.
Geographic labels simply put the foods place of reference such as “Tex-Mex Fajitas.” Nostalgic labels stimulate happy emotions associated with our families and culture such as “Mrs. Field’s Homemade cookies.” Sensory labels do just that. They trigger bodies hunger hormone (aka ghrelin) with words like “sizzling” and “buttery” and “hearty.” And, surprise, surprise, we think foods with familiar name brands (i.e. Brand Labels) make us think the food we eat tastes better than the food in the next shelf over.
Isn’t food fun? Haha.
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!