Remember those table manners you were taught growing up? No elbows on the table. Fork in the left hand and knife in the right. Stay at the table until everyone has finished. One rule that stands out above the rest is eating with your mouth closed - essential behaviour, particularly when eating in public. However, it turns out we could learn a few things from those loudly chomping their lunch on the train.
‘We’ve been doing it all wrong,’ claims Professor Charles Spence from the University of Oxford. ‘Chewing open-mouthed may actually help to release more of the volatile organic compounds, contributing to our sense of smell and overall perception.’
These volatile compounds, found in our food, make up its characteristics such as its aroma and flavour. Olfactory sensory neurons in the back of our noses detect these compounds, and fire signals to our brain and heighten our experience of eating.
It’s not just these compounds that improve the taste of our food - our other senses also come into play.
‘When it comes to sound, we like noisy foods - think crunchy, crispy,’ says Professor Spence, ‘both crisps and apples are rated as more pleasurable when the sound of the crunch is amplified.’
Now parents are really going to want to look away - not only do experts want us to open our mouths but they also suggest eating with our hands.
‘Feeling the smooth, organic texture of an apple in our hand before biting into it whole is likely to contribute to a heightened appreciation of the juicy, sweet, crunch of that first bite,’ explains Professor Spence.
It seems we may be going back to our primal roots quicker than we thought as Michelin-starred restaurants like Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and Noma in Copenhagen, have already started experimenting with dishes designed to be eaten without cutlery. We have to admit - licking the bowl with your finger when baking is certainly the best part of the whole process, right?
It may be a pet-hate for some, but if you want the full gastronomic experience, maybe it’s time to start foregoing your table manners.
Not quite ready to leave politeness behind? Maybe stick with a fine-dining experience from our guide to every three Michelin star restaurant in the UK