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Ever wish you could improve the taste of your meals without having to learn to be a gourmet chef? Science says you can. The taste of food is influenced by multiple factors, including presentation, smell, sound, and memories triggered by your environment. Although smell and sound are well-known influences, memory holds more influence over the enjoyment of a meal than you think.
That little bistro on the corner that you love might remind you of your grandma’s kitchen where you spent time baking cookies as a child. Or, that loud, dark coffee shop might remind you of your own bedroom where you feel most comfortable. Even if that coffee shop serves terrible coffee, you’ll enjoy it because the environment makes you feel good.
Before you transform your kitchen with a specific style of décor, consider the atmosphere you’re creating. Is your choice of décor neutral to your past experiences? You don’t want to trigger childhood memories of sitting at the dinner table all night because you refused to eat your broccoli.
The smallest piece of common décor (like a rooster-print oven mitt) can influence a meal in either direction. If you grew up with a kitchen full of farm décor, and you don’t have fond dinner table memories, decorate with a different style. Farm décor won’t necessarily make you re-experience your childhood, but it could create a nagging discomfort in the kitchen.
A significant portion of taste resides in memory.
Your memory rules your taste preferences whether you like it or not, and goes all the way back to the womb.
There’s a scientific reason many kids end up preferring foods their mother ate during pregnancy. According to a CNN Health report on taste and perception, “the food [the mother] eat gets into the amniotic fluid and flavors it. The fetus can detect those flavors and remember them after birth. This also happens with breast milk when a mother nurses an infant. As children get old enough to eat solid food, they show a preference for flavors they first experienced in the womb.”
This explains my obsession with iced tea! My mother drank iced tea every day when she was pregnant with me, and I can’t go to any restaurant without ordering iced tea. I have a minimum of 20 types of tea in my cupboard at all times.
Remembering flavors from the womb is just one way that memory influences taste preferences. Memories connected to experiences involving certain foods that were never eaten influence taste preferences, too.
For example, say you got unwillingly dragged out on your grandfather’s boat for a fishing trip when you were ten years old. Say the experience was unpleasant because you were afraid of water and didn’t know how to swim. Your grandfather caught plenty of trout and cooked them up fresh within hours of catching them, but the experience was so traumatic you refused to take a bite. As an adult, you have an aversion to trout and believe it’s because you don’t like it. If someone offers you trout, you cringe and politely refuse. What you may not realize is your reaction to trout (a food you’ve never tried) is actually a reaction to your undesirable fishing trip experience.
Neutral décor will prevent subconscious discomfort.
Neutral décor will prevent those unidentifiable feelings of discomfort in the kitchen. However, neutral doesn’t mean plain or boring. What’s neutral to you won’t be neutral to others. It’s all relative to your personal experiences.
Unless you have a specific aversion to shiny kitchen appliances, stainless steel is a good choice for neutrality. Stainless steel appliances are easy to clean and automatically make your kitchen feel clean and new. If you’re particular about making sure everything matches throughout your home, the good news is nearly every appliance you could possibly need comes in stainless steel, including outdoor appliances like grills and AC units.
If you’re stuck, talking to professional decorators will give you some ideas, and if you’re overwhelmed, hire one to do the work for you.
Make uplifting kitchen décor your priority.
Choose décor that makes your kitchen an enjoyable environment. Use décor to create positive memories for yourself, your friends, and your family. If you still want to improve your cooking skills, glue yourself to the TV and study the cooking shows broadcast by the Food Network.
This post is sponsored by Larry Alton.