Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating
There was a time when—apart from the late, great Nicholas Kurti—scientists didn’t consider the science of food a serious or worthwhile subject for study. I’d talk with them, offering up theories based on what I’d observed and carefully tested in The Fat Duck kitchen, and get an indulgent smile that seemed to say, “You stick to cooking and let us get on with the rest.” Admittedly, chefs were no better, insisting that cooking had little to do with science, as though the eggs they were busy scrambling weren’t in fact undergoing the technical process of coagulation.
Charles, though, wasn’t like this. One of his strengths is that he has a curiosity that crosses disciplines and, for all his scientific rigor, isn’t confined to a narrow academic viewpoint. Upon meeting him, I discovered that many of the ideas I was exploring in my kitchen, he was also exploring in his lab. And so, as you’ll see in this book, he and I began doing research together on how we react to the food we see, hear, smell, touch, and put in our mouths. We eat with our eyes, ears, nose, memory, imagination and our gut. Every human being has a relationship with food, some of it positive, some of it negative, but ultimately it’s all about emotion and feeling.
To me, this is at the very heart of how we respond to food: much more than the tongue (which detects at least five tastes); more even than the nose (which detects countless aromas), it’s the conversation between our brain and our gut, mediated by our heart, that tells us whether we like a food or not. It’s the brain that governs our emotional response.
It’s a hugely rewarding subject (and an essential one for us, as humans, to understand), but it’s undoubtedly a complex one, too. Charles is the perfect guide to introduce us to this world and to investigate with us—in a truly accessible, entertaining and informative way—how it works. On every page there are ideas to set you thinking and widen your horizons, from the notion that we all of us live in separate and completely different taste worlds, to questions like, “Is cutlery the best way to move the food from plate to mouth?”
What I take away from Gastrophysics is that, as Charles says, in the mouth very little is as it seems. The pleasure we get from food depends, far more than we could possibly imagine, on our subjectivity—on our memories, associations and emotions. It’s a fascinating topic into which you can take your first steps through the door by reading Gastrophysics.
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