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Am I a foodie? I don’t know.

I understand the debate about GMOs and I try to avoid them. Eating organic makes sense to me, so I try to keep those foods in my kitchen. When I eat out, I love trying new dishes and learning how my pastrami’d pork chop can beat up your corned beef hash. It’s great when my tastebuds are surprised with something absolutely delicious.

Simply, I like the pleasures of good food. Who doesn’t? That’s a pretty common experience.

But what about the pleasures of good food transformed with sound?

Now we’re breaking more than bread. The whole concept of how you taste – i.e. with your mouth – is getting ripped open by the party animals of the research world, sensory scientists.

In a piece in Salon, (riffing on a piece from The Guardian), it’s come to light that what you hear can significantly impact how you taste.

Let’s do a science experiment. Grab a piece of chocolate and go here. Play the low frequency sounds. Are you suddenly tasting some of the chocolate’s bitter notes? Would you rather taste something sweet? Turn off the low and hit play for the high frequency sounds. Notice the difference?

The actual taste of the chocolate is not changing, but rather sound is changing how a person perceives the taste. According to Amy Fleming at the Guardian, “The sound is what sensory science nuts call modulating taste, and the past few years have seen a boom in research in this area.” Scientists are beginning to learn that when it comes to sound and taste we have synaesthetic tendencies (or when one sense involuntarily makes you feel another sense).

Charles Spence, a professor at the Crossmodal Laboratory at Oxford University, had a group of volunteers try cinder toffee at high and low frequencies. The results showed that high frequencies made the toffee sweeter and low frequencies made the toffee more bitter.

Wild, eh?

Of course, we already knew that sound could impact our eating experience. Ever try potato pancakes while listening to Mr. Trololo?

The sensory scientists say we have synesthesia when it comes to sound and taste.

(Say that three times fast. Now do it with an ear in your mouth. See?!) Synesthesia is a weird thing. It sounds like a way to get numb with overly sweet pastry commonly found at airports and shopping malls.

But no. It’s when you can smell colors. Or feel sounds. Or taste differently based on what you’re hearing.


A trip, right? Suddenly food takes on new meaning. Eating becomes a funhouse of who-knows-what.

But you don’t need to be born with this freaky phenomenon to experience it. You can induce it.

Let’s call it cross-sensing.

Cross-sensing is when you purposely juxtapose unrelated stimuli via different senses. It’s a sure way to turn common experiences on their head.

Example: There’s a restaurant trend right now that some call dark dining. Have you heard of it? You are blindfolded when you’re seated at your table. Then you get to enjoy the entire meal tipping over wine glasses reaching for the salt.

But seriously, the dining experience is unusual and memorable because it heightens the other senses. You listen to conversation differently. The smells become more intense. So does the texture.

And, of course, you’re more sensitive to the taste of the food.


The point is, you can push the whole concept of taste so it’s different, improved, or just bizarre.

Have some fun pairing different tunes and sounds with different foods. Experiment. See how it changes the way food tastes and your experience of eating.

Then try cross-sensing in ways that go beyond sound and food.

What happens if you rub a rabbit’s foot while watching Elmer Fudd?

If you drink Red Bull while smelling a red rose, can you hear red?

Does a cold shower feel any better if you’re listening to Happy?

Give it a go. I’m sure you’ll find it better than the din at Denny’s.

What cross-sensing combos do you suggest? Leave me a comment and let me know.

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