Killer Appetizer? It May Have Ruined Your Main Course

People like their entrees better when preceded by a mediocre appetizer
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 26, 2015 2:36 PM CDT
Killer Appetizer? It May Have Ruined Your Main Course
The main dish, pasta aglio e olio, remained the same throughout the study.   (ALISSA FALCONE / Drexel University)

We humans are so fickle. How much we like our main course can change based solely on the quality of the appetizer that immediately preceded it. So says a new study out of Drexel University published in the journal Food Quality and Preference. "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 co-author Jacob Lahne says. (He adds, though, that this "doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fantastic appetizers!")

To test how one plate might influence another, the researchers prepared two versions of bruschetta: one "good" version with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil, and extra ingredients, including balsamic vinegar and lemon zest, and one "mediocre" version with blended olive oil and dried basil. The app was followed up by a simple pasta with garlic and oil, using Barilla-brand pasta out of a box, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Not surprisingly, people liked the good bruschetta better, but they enjoyed their pasta more when it followed the mediocre bruschetta. Lahne says this "contrast effect" is well-established, but hadn't yet been studied with diners in the real world. He plans to investigate further, more to inform chefs and the food industry than consumers. (Check out why we crave comfort food when we're sad.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.