Break out of a food rut by eating and drinking the same old choices in crazy new ways
Play with your food — you might like it better.
People enjoy dishes and drinks more when they consume them in unconventional ways, such as eating popcorn with chopsticks or lapping up water like a cat, according to a recent Ohio State University study.
The researchers conducted a few experiments to see how engaging with something in a new way, such as food, drinks and videos, influences the way people feel about the experience.
In one study, those who ate popcorn with chopsticks reported enjoying it more than those who ate the snack using their hands, as usual. They reported feeling “more immersed” in the dining experience, and it helped “intensify the taste” and got them to “focus on the food.”
“It’s like eating popcorn for the first time,” Robert Smith, co-author of the study and an assistant professor of marketing at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, said in his report. “This suggests chopsticks boost enjoyment because they provide an unusual first-time experience, not because they are a better way to eat popcorn.”
Because of course it’s not a better way to eat popcorn — in fact, 43% of Americans said in a YouGov survey that they are “not very good” or “terrible” at using chopsticks, and a quarter have never even tried to use them. But on the bright side, you’ll be so busy struggling to snag each kernel that you won’t see the side-eye from others staring at you in the movie theater. (Plus, you paid how much for that popcorn? You may as well get your money’s worth by taking the time to enjoy it.)
In another test, 300 people were asked to come up with their own “fresh, new and fun” ways to sip water – which naturally led to methods like swirling it out of martini glasses and lapping it with their tongues like cats. And those who drank water in quirky ways also enjoyed it more than those who drank it normally. Because what’s more fun than taking 20 minutes to quenching your thirst? Getting your eight recommended glasses of water daily will take the entire day, but at least you’ll have fun doing it.
These findings also suggest that switching to unconventional consumption methods can make boring old food and drinks feel new again. “It may be easier to make it feel new than you might think,” Smith said, also suggesting that you try alternating the way you eat pizza, such as folding your first slice, but then eating the second with a knife and fork.
“Seinfeld” actually ran with this idea in a classic 1994 episode where Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) notices her boss eating his Snickers with a knife and fork. Pretty soon, everyone in New York starts eating finger foods like candy bars, cookies and doughnuts with utensils, which supposedly elevate the dessert experience.
And plenty of restaurants today find that people eat gimmicks like this up.
David Burke’s Tavern62 in New York City, for example, serves candied bacon hanging from a clothesline — and, yes, clipped on with wooden clothespins.
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Dinners in the Dark in New York and The Blind Cafes in Austin and San Francisco turn out the lights during your meal so that you stop eating with your eyes, and instead focus on the taste, scent and feel of your food.
Ikinara Steak also rocked the NYC steakhouse scene by tossing all of the chairs and instead inviting guests to belly up at communal counters, where they eat their ribeye, filet or sirloin standing up. When the Japanese stand-up steakhouse opened in the East Village last winter, there were lines out the door. Ikinara is already expanding to 11 restaurants in Manhattan by the end of this year, with five opened already.
And KFC blew fast food lovers’ minds when it launched the “Double Down” sandwich in 2010, which simply replaced the bread slices with two pieces of fried chicken, and stuffed the cheese and bacon in the middle. It was so popular that it was brought back for a limited time in 2014, and hit the U.K. this year.
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