Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence, EPUB, 0735223467

October 10, 2017

Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence

  • Print Length: 336 Pages
  • Publisher: Viking
  • Publication Date: June 20, 2017
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0735223467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735223462
  • ISBN-10: 024127009X
  • File Format: EPUB




Title Page
Amuse Bouche
1. Taste
2. Smell
3. Sight
4. Sound
5. Touch
6. The Atmospheric Meal
7. Social Dining
8. Airline Food
9. The Meal Remembered
10. The Personalized Meal
11. The Experiential Meal
12. Digital Dining
13. Back to the Futurists
Bibliography and Related Readings
Illustration Credits


I would never have ended up in the world of gastrophysics if it hadn’t been for the enduring support and mentorship of Prof. Francis McGlone then at Unilever Research, for which I will always remain grateful. As will become clear from the main text, though, it was really the introduction to Heston Blumenthal by Tony Blake of Firmenich that led to my growing interest in gastronomy, rather than food science! In recent years, I owe an especial debt of gratitude to Rupert Ponsonby (R&R), Christophe Cauvy (then of JWT), and Steve Keller (iV Audio Branding) for having believed in the multisensory approach to gastrophysics and all things fun. To Prof. Barry Smith, for helping make the Baz ’n’ Chaz wine roadshow so enjoyable. Long may it continue! It has, though, really been the enthusiastic support and collaboration of the next generation of young chefs, including Jozef Youssef, of Kitchen Theory, and Charles Michel, Crossmodalist extraordinaire, that has made the latest gastrophysics research such fun to do. You will read about a number of their dishes and designs in the pages that follow.

I would also like to thank the many chefs and culinary schools for their support, and opening up their kitchens and restaurants to the “Mad Professor”: I have been lucky enough to conduct gastrophysics research over the last fifteen years together with a number of world-leading chefs including Heston Blumenthal and all the team at The Fat Duck Research Kitchen and restaurant; Chef Sriram Aylur, Quilon, London; Chef Jesse Dunford Woods, Parlor, London; Ben Reade, Nordic Food Lab; Dominique Persoone, The Chocolate Line; Chef Albert Landgraf from Epice, São Paolo; Chef Xavier Gamez, of Xavier260, Porto Allegre, Brazil; Chef Andoni and Dani Lasa from Mugaritz, San Sebastián; Chef Joel Braham, of The Good Egg, London; Chef Debs Paquette, of Etch, Nashville; and not forgetting Chef Paul Fraemohs, of Somerville College, Oxford. I have also been lucky enough to conduct research together with Ferran Adrià’s Alicía Foundation in Spain, The Paul Bocuse Cookery School, Lyon, France, and Westminster Kingsway College, London. I would also like to thank Jelly & Gin, Blanch & Shock, Caroline Hobkinson, Sam Bompas, and all the students, past and present, who have done most of the research here at the Crossmodal Research Laboratory.

Finally, I would like to thank Tony Conigliaro from 69 Colbrooke Row, London, Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr. Lyan, Neil Perry (of Rockpool, Sydney), and Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, of Colonna & Small’s, Bath. All masters of their art. And, finally, Fergus Henderson, for the memorable evening onstage at the Cheltenham Science Festival back in 2007 (along with a bucket of tripe oh so gallantly displayed by my vegan then graduate student, Maya Shankar).


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.

Heston Blumenthal

The science behind a good meal: all the sounds, sights, and tastes that make us like what we’re eating—and want to eat more.

Why do we consume 35 percent more food when eating with one other person, and 75 percent more when dining with three? How do we explain the fact that people who like strong coffee drink more of it under bright lighting? And why does green ketchup just not work?

The answer is gastrophysics, the new area of sensory science pioneered by Oxford professor Charles Spence. Now he’s stepping out of his lab to lift the lid on the entire eating experiencehow the taste, the aroma, and our overall enjoyment of food are influenced by all of our senses, as well as by our mood and expectations.

The pleasures of food lie mostly in the mind, not in the mouth. Get that straight and you can start to understand what really makes food enjoyable, stimulating, and, most important, memorable. Spence reveals in amusing detail the importance of all the “off the plate” elements of a meal: the weight of cutlery, the color of the plate, the background music, and much more. Whether we’re dining alone or at a dinner party, on a plane or in front of the TV, he reveals how to understand what we’re tasting and influence what others experience.

This is accessible science at its best, fascinating to anyone in possession of an appetite. Crammed with discoveries about our everyday sensory lives, Gastrophysics is a book guaranteed to make you look at your plate in a whole new way.

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