Do We Really Eat with Our Eyes?

It’s a common belief in the hospitality industry that we eat with our eyes, with the suggestion being that you can tell just by looking at a plate of food whether it will go down well or not. That’s certainly what foodie bloggers will have you believe, so too restaurateurs, chefs and perhaps even some food producers.

Is that really the case though?

I personally agree only to a certain extent and in fact I’d actually go all the way and say that we only eat with our eyes in the absence of our ability to eat with our noses! The sense of smell is the closest one related to the sense of taste, which is why when you’re suffering from a bout of flu and your nose is all clogged up the food you eat doesn’t seem to have any taste.

I mean yeah, if you walk into a restaurant and you’re handed a menu, that’s the first point of contact with some of the food you’re potentially going to munch down on, but if you take a moment to think about your favourite food or some or other food which you tasted and totally fell in love with, you don’t really think about how it looks, but rather think about how it smells or how it tastes, don’t you?

The “you eat with your eyes mantra” could very well come from an innocent place, but that’s exactly what it is – a mantra. Think about – how else can a restaurant entice you to visit them to spend some of your money and get a taste of some of the food they offer, other than to show some footage or pictures of that food? The same applies to foodie bloggers – I mean they can’t exactly send you the scent of a specific dish over the net, can they?

Now I’m not bashing foodie bloggers and the likes, but as an artist I know that some of the other senses beyond that of sight actually induce a stronger reaction in people, which is why you never see a muted advert on TV (or hardly ever see one, if any of them exist). Your sense of sight is almost like the default sense, but by no means is it the be-all and end-all sense with which to enjoy art.

Once you’ve had a taste of something, next time the same dish is put in front of you, how it looks won’t matter, unless of course it’s presentation is physically altered through something like it clearly being burnt of having had different ingredients added to it. What matters most is your memory of how it tastes, which is closely related to how it smells, so really I believe we eat with our noses and not with our eyes as is the common suggestion.

When you walk down the aisle of a mall and you can smell the popcorn coming from the nearby, resident movie theatre, what immediately comes to your mind is what that popcorn tastes like and not what it looks like, is it not?

So taking that forward and applying it as far as your consumption and appreciation of art goes, try to incorporate as much of your senses as you possibly can at once. You will be opened up to a whole new world of how to truly enjoy the essence of an artwork and the essence of art in general.

Shaun Greaves

Blogger of arts and liver of life. Singaporean at heart, but living in the UK. Life is art, appreciate it.
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