A yummy appetizer might make your main course less satisfying, new research suggests.
Ordinary hors d’oeuvres, on the other hand, could make the food that follows seem a lot tastier.
“It’s always worth remembering that our experiences are contextual — that is, what we like and don’t like, or taste and don’t taste, is not objective, but related to the environment, our state of mind and many other variables,” study author Jacob Lahne, an assistant professor in Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management, said in a university news release.
The study used Italian bruschetta — garlicky grilled bread topped with olive oil — as an example. The findings were published recently in the journal Food Quality and Preference.
“If you have a fantastic appetizer and then the main seems lackluster, that could be because of this type of contrast effect. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fantastic appetizers!” Lahne noted.
The researchers examined people’s response to a bowl of pasta with garlic and oil after they had either an enhanced “good” bruschetta appetizer, made with fresher and better ingredients, or a “mediocre” version. The “good” bruschetta was made with balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil. The “mediocre” version, in contrast, was made with blended olive oil and dried basil.
Study participants had more favorable views of the “good” bruschetta. But they liked the pasta dish better after having the “mediocre” bruschetta. The researchers suggested a main course may seem better if it’s preceded by and compared to a less tasty appetizer.
The U.S. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides more insight and tips on eating out.