A beautiful tablecloth and candles are just as important as what you cook on Valentine’s Day and making the extra effort to ‘create an atmosphere’ can even influence how good the food tastes
- Research participants eat bowls of tomato soup and assessed the quality and taste
- Researchers had them taste the same soup under different lighting conditions
- They discovered that participants found the soup ‘less salty’ in low light
- The optimum condition for a good meal is less light and a tablecloth
A beautiful tablecloth and candles are just as important as what you cook on Valentine’s Day and ‘creating an atmosphere’ can even influence how good the food tastes.
Researchers from Germany investigated the influence that the environment of a date has on the taste of the food – in particular on the quality of the soup.
In two studies, people were asked to rate a bowl of tomato soup on quality, taste, odor and appearance of 100 while changing their environment.
The biggest difference was when the lights were dimmed and a tablecloth was added, under those circumstances people ate more and said the food was of better quality.
Researchers from Germany investigated the influence that the environment of a date has on the taste of the food – in particular on the quality of the soup
In the first of two studies, people were asked to eat two identical bowls of tomato soup and give feedback on how it tasted, while researchers changed the lighting.
In the second study, people were assigned to one of four random groups with a ‘double date’ style table setting, including two groups of two people.
They only changed the lighting in the first study and people said the tomato soup was ‘less salty’ when the light was low, but did not report any other changes.
They dimmed the lights and added a tablecloth for the second study and discovered that people judged the food better and of better quality than without the tablecloth.
All dinners were students and employees of the University of Hohenheim in Germany and were recruited via dating platforms, email and telephone.
It excluded anyone under 18, people with special diets, including food intolerance or vegan diets, and anyone who was studying food science.
The lighting they used was similar to that in restaurants, especially those used for ‘date nights’ and Valentine’s Day.
Of the less salty reaction to the soup in low light, they think that this may be because the participants are more ‘vigilant’ under low light conditions and more sensitive to taste.
They say it is unlikely that lighting differences alone have a major impact on the quality of the food or the dining experience.
They discovered that the perception of the food and the quality of the date began to change when the lighting was linked to other environmental changes.
Researchers designed the second study with a more natural ‘date-like’ setting, with ‘couples’ at a table.
“The results showed a 51 percent increase in soup consumption in the group who ate with dimmed light and tablecloth compared to dimmed light condition without tablecloth,” the authors said.
“The larger amount that is consumed can partly be explained by a longer average meal duration and higher average ratings of the soup.”
The tablecloth had a greater impact on the perceived quality of the food than the lighting, the authors found.
This included responses to the amount eaten, the duration of the meal, and the overall taste and quality of the soup.
They discovered that the perception of the food and the quality of the date began to change when the lighting was linked to other environmental changes
“Although a tablecloth seems to increase the overall pleasantness of the environment by the participants, the combination with low lighting seems to be the most effective in influencing intake and food experience,” they found.
If you are planning a Valentine meal for a loved one, make sure that you have both the table layout and the lighting for the best chance of a successful night.
Just having a dimmed bulb can only lead to a ‘less salty meal’, the authors found.
Aside from the impact on a good date night, researchers say that the findings that people eat more food under certain circumstances can help people with medical conditions.
An increase of half the amount of soup by turning the environment into a pleasant group atmosphere reveals great potential for different institutions and health conditions, the team said in their paper.
This includes malnutrition in the elderly and certain groups of people at risk of malnutrition, including cancer patients.
The research is published in the journal Food quality and preference.
WHO WAS SAINT VALENTINE?
The life of St. Valentine is largely shrouded in mystery, but according to tradition he was a cleric who was killed in 273 AD
Although the life of St. Valentine’s Day is largely shrouded in mystery, the tradition is that the old clergyman, who was killed in 273 AD, sacrificed his life for love by defying a marriage ban imposed by Roman Emperor Claudius II.
Historians claim that the ruler with a hard nose was determined to build a formidable army to defend his empire.
He clung to lovers who got married because he believed that young men without a wife or dependents would go to war more.
But the early Christian saint challenged the edict and secretly performed weddings for couples.
The risks were great. Valentine lived in a time when Christians were being persecuted and wedding ceremonies were still a new ritual.
St Valentine’s match-making activities, especially for soldiers, were eventually discovered and Claudius II imprisoned him and tortured him.
According to legend, many young people supported him in prison by throwing flowers and taking notes through the prison bars to express their belief in marriage and love.
And apparently shortly before his death he fell head over heels in front of the blind daughter of his prison guard, Artemias, who miraculously recovered her eyesight.
On February 14, the day of his execution, St Valentine sent his loved one a farewell love letter signed “from your Valentine.”