What do words taste of?

Had a stunning lunch out at the Westbourne Grove Food Incubator.

It was part of a series of educational and multi-sensory dining events and was called Synaesthesia and was run by Kitchen Theory.

It was a 3 course lunch with Amuse Bouche although a seven course dinner is also available.

Now Synaesthesia is an interesting trait that some 4% of the human population have. It involves people associating sounds with flavours or colours or…the definition is:

the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.

 Now we all do this to some extent in that we talk of a ‘warm’ colour or a ‘cool’ colour and also we associate certain colours with particular tastes. So a green drink could be expected to be bitter eg a lime flavour (no sugar!) or a red drink could be expected to be sweet. However, for some people it is rather more extreme-for them certain words could be a taste.

James Wannerton, President of the UK Synaesthesia Association, has visited every tube, DLR and Overground stop on the network and described what the station name tastes like to him.

tube map

 

The dining experience we had incorporated sensory audio-visual aids and the collaboration of knowledge from academic experts. We were shown a number of videos explaining what we were doing and what to expect. We were also given a block to play with – each side of the block was a different texture and it seems that touching one side of the block can impact your taste. Personally, I used the block to feel what the food tasted like. For instance the soup course was a velvety felt with several layers of touch available as the tastes were very complex yet soft even though it seems that there was some umami tastes and some chilli oil included too.

Kitchen Theory has worked with Professor Charles Spence and his team at the Cross Modal department of Oxford University, Sean Day, President of American Synesthesia Association, and Richard E. Cytowic, MD MFA, Neurologist and author of ‘Wednesday is Indigo Blue’ to understand this phenomenon and deliver an informative and interactive dining event of sensory discovery.

The founder and Chef Patron, Jozef Youssef, has combined his experience of working at some of London’s top restaurants such as Helene Darroze at the Connaught, The Dorchester Hotel and the Fat Duck together with incorporating modernist cooking methods from his book ‘Molecular Gastronomy at Home.’

So did we enjoy this experience? Answer simply – very much indeed! And would do it again with one of our children – possibly our psychologist daughter who would love the exploration of taste and food and its links to the cognitive senses.

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