#sensoryChristmas Cracker Games

Wrapping ripping, Kings choir, ice cubes cracking, almond trees shaking, Monopoly ataptaptaping, nuts cracking, Quality St squeaking, kids quibbling, Dad snoring, folding foil, Grannie’s whiskers, cashmere socks, Christmas jumpers, wellies walking, turkey steaming, candles burning, candles blown, No5 gifting, fire smoking or chestnuts roasting...

What sounds are you looking forward to hearing this Christmas? What textures? What smells will you savour? We’d love to know @vetyverfeels#sensorychristmas

We have put together some tricks and games to tune in to your senses this Christmas.

Now for a little wine tasting [best to view full screen]...

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What sounds are you looking forward to hearing this Christmas? What textures? What smells will you savour? We’d love to know tweet @vetyverfeels #sensorychristmas



A sensory home: multi-sensory dining and sound

We have been exploring how we can use simple tricks turn our homes into a multi-sensory paradise. Drawing from our experience working with brands and companies we are sharing our knowledge and modifying some of our work for everyday use.  Considering our own personal multi-sensory environment can make an incredible difference to the way we live. Last time we looked at smell and how candles can add value to your dining experience. This time, we are staying in the kitchen and dining room, but concentrating on our ears.

Experiments have shown that people enjoy a drink more when listening to music. Simply playing something can make the difference. Curated music and bespoke soundscapes are big part of the work we do to help companies improve their brand experience, and many of these elements can be adapted for home use.

People are more likely to engage in an experience if they think it is authentic. When listening to a soundscape specific sounds become aligned with a past experience and so authenticated by our brains. Memory is powerful and certain songs and sounds drip with potential narratives and associative power. Why not serve ice-cream with the sound of the sea to take your guests back to their childhood holidays. Or bring an Italian feast to life with the authentic sounds of Rome clattering away in the background.

Or, as we did when we in our workshops with IKEA, used the sound of the forest to compliment woodland foods such as mushrooms or venison.This creates a connection to the origins of the ingredients.

Soundscapes can bring certain flavours to the forefront. In a research project for a beer company, we found in our focus group that the sound of wind running through barley helped people focus on this element of the flavour during the tasting. We can think of sound as an ingredient in our cookery, bringing certain parts of the recipe to the forefront.

It’s important to consider volume. Loudness has been proven to directly affect our perception of flavour.  As music increases in volume, we tend to think of things as less sweet, we also tend to notice taste less and eat more. So turn down the tunes if you want people to enjoy the subtle flavours of your lemon souffle. Turn it up for curry night! 

Tempo encourages people to eat more quickly or slowly and pitch plays its part as well. Listening to music of a higher pitch means people perceive things as sweeter. Play a lower pitch sound, and people report their food to be more bitter. A nice idea is to create a playlist for your evening which takes the courses you are serving into consideration. This is a less intimidating than maybe pumping in the sound of the a Moroccan souk over people trying to enjoy your tagine! 

People tend to make judgement of quality taste based on their perceived quality of the music they are listening to and research suggests that this goes beyond personal taste. So sophisticated high quality recordings can make all the difference. Classical music may impress your guests with your sophistication and taste anyway, but it might also be improving the taste of your food.

We all eat, several times a day so, it makes sense to make the most of this time, either having fun with your family, or impressing your dinner guests. Music and soundscapes are a really nice way to add a sense of occasion to a mealtime and they do not need to interfere with the conversation. In fact, they will add to it if they are added with careful consideration.

Music is easily available and free, and soundscapes too are easily purchased or streamed online. We’d love to hear from you about some of your suggestions for what pairings work, and don't.

A sensory home: multi-sensory dining and scent

Following last month's workshops for IKEA as part of the The Dining Club, we are publishing a series of posts to help make the most of your home by using some clever sensory hacks. With no mention of molecular gastronomy, we are sharing some of the skills we have learnt over the years working with brands to make the most of spaces and to tell their stories using all of the senses.

In this blog, we are going to concentrate on smell and how this can affect the experience of eating, one of the most inherently multisensory experiences we engage in day-to-day. Taste is, after all, almost 90% smell and so smell can dramatically alter your enjoyment of food.

Candles are now commonplace in our homes. They range in price from from a couple of pounds to a couple of hundred pounds, are accessible to everyone and are very effective at setting mood. There are hundreds of options of flavours now available, from lemon or lavender, from iMac to bacon. They are most commonly found in the living room, bedroom and bathroom but that isn't a reason not to consider them in the kitchen - or garden or toolshed or office for that matter!

We are often commissioned to explore how science, psychology and cross-modal responses can affect the senses, in commercial environments and campaigns. We know well that scent is an intrinsic part of the taste experience. The science of understanding how different flavours and aromas interact and influence each other is relatively new to science (believe it or not there are still competing scientific ideas about how the nose even works) but there is still a lot we can do. Setting the science aside, trust your intuition and to go with what works for you. Chefs have been doing this for centuries, using their finely developed taste to go come up with radical new combinations of flavours.

Pair scents with flavours

If you are using scent in close proximity to food, consider it as an additional ingredient. Pick combinations that will compliment each other. Would you add the heady aroma of Gardenia to beef? We wouldn’t, but would you add rose or lemon to a Moroccan Lamb Harissa? Yes. Choosing a Moroccan rose candle with a hint of frankincense could transport your tagine, and your guests, to the souks of Marrakesh. Which brings us to the next aspect of pairing scent with food - using scent to create a connection to the origin and style of the food.

Connecting with your food

Where does your food come from? What season is it? What country and culture does the recipe reflect? Scent can enhance your connection with your food and your enjoyment of it.

The Swedish woodland served as our inspiration for our tasting workshop for IKEA and we found some beautiful woodland mushrooms to cook. The origins of the food inspired us to use fern, moss and pine scents to create a connection back to where the food originated and to give a stronger sense of place and authenticity.

Smell doesn’t need to come from a candle or an artificial source. For our workshop we found moss and pine-cones for the mushrooms and dressed the place setting with them. We squeezed lemon on the mushrooms at the table just before tasting so we could enjoy the scent of lemon zest before tasting the mushrooms.

Be unique

So that’s just a few ideas to hopefully get your noses watering as well as your tastebuds. Our advice is to experiment, relax and have fun. Play around and see what works for you, what doesn’t,  and keep mixing it up. Immerse your guests in scent and this will go a long way towards creating a meal they will remember for many years.

If you have had particular successes, or failures, we’d love to hear about it.

There are currently no public sessions planned but do follow us on twitter to keep up to date with what we have coming up. And if you are interested in an event or project please get in touch.

See Also

A sensory home

Sensory eating for IKEA

Sensory beer tasting

How does your brand feel