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We eat with our eyes: how a Kandinsky salad has more edible appeal

An example of "edible art" is proof of what top chefs already know - a culinary masterpiece has to look the part as well as taste delicious.

Psychologists found that a salad tasted better when arranged to resemble a work by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky.

The "abstract plating" was inspired by Kandisky's Painting Number 201, which hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In tests, volunteers preferred the flavour of the artistic dish over the same ingredients tossed together or placed neatly but uncreatively on the plate.

The 60 volunteers, aged 18 to 58, also said they would be willing to pay more for the Kandinsky salad.

Writing in the journal Flavour, the team led by Professor Charles Spence, from Oxford University's Department of Experimental Psychology, concluded: "Eating the food led to an increase in ratings of the tastiness of the food in the case of the art-inspired dish, likely showing that the aesthetic value of this visual arrangement made the food more enjoyable to eat.

"The results of the study.. provide evidence for the idea that there are differences in the expectations and consumption experience of a dish as a result of the various elements having been artistically arranged on the plate.

"Diners intuitively attribute an artistic value to the food, find it more complex, and like it more when the culinary elements are arranged to look like an abstract-art painting."

The "relatively complex" salad consisted of a total of 30 ingredients, including Portobello and shimeji mushrooms, broccoli sprouts, endive, raw red and yellow peppers, cauliflower, and mange-tout.

It also featured a variety of sauces, such as beetroot and carrot puree, cauliflower and lemongrass creme and mushroom essence with squid ink.

Chef and food scientist Jozef Youssef, founder of the experimental gastronomy project Kitchen Theory, contributed his culinary skill to the experiment.

Inspired by the results, he and staff from the scientific publishing house BioMed Central, which owns the journal, went on to create a range of other dishes inspired by famous works from the likes of Picasso, Magritte and Rothko.

Freelance chef and researcher Charles Michel, a member of the Oxford team, said: "Using artistic inspiration in the design of the culinary experience, even when used implicitly, can indeed enhance the enjoyment of food."

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