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Your opinion ... do foods taste different based on their shape?

Friend says baked beans taste different than the same baked beans run through a food processor.

In other words, would chickpeas taste different than hummus? Assuming the spices for both were the same?

I'm not entirely convinced my friend is right or wrong, but it got me thinking. Would a plain baked potato taste different if it were mashed? I think it might, although just barely so.

I mean I could definitely see pureed carrots or celery tasting very different on the palate than a stick of carrot or celery.

What do the 'Hounds here think?

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  1. For mashed up beans, yes. I think so. Mashed potatoes tasted different to me than baked. Pureed squash also tastes different to me than plain baked squash. However, there are other ingredients in hummus, mashed potatoes and pureed squash, at least as presented at the table.

    1. A man I know, who is from Chicago, vehemently swears that rectangular pizza tastes different than pie shaped wedges. Same pizza/same ingredients that are cut into different shapes = different flavor for him. Personally, I could not tell the difference but he will never back down on this one.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sherri

        He's an idiot. Make him close his eyes and hand him two spoons of pizza, one with each shape. He won't know.

        Does he believe in science? Does he know how a human tongue works? Taste buds?

        1. re: Sherri

          In the case of pizza, there's a twist: rectangular pizza usually is rolled or shaped and then spends some time in the pan before baking. Depending on the time and the temperature, this gives a different end product. It can range from one with just a bit more loft to one with a substantially thicker crust and an entirely different flavor- even using the same dough as a round pizza made in the same kitchen at the same time. And beyond that, even both were put into the oven immediately, there's still the fact that a round pizza bakes on a screen or right on the oven slab, whereas the rectangular one is in a baking pan with raised edges, and most likely with a bit of oil or shortening also. Not the exact same thing.

          When there's yeast and baking involved, small changes in the process can yield a startlingly altered result. So at least in this case, I'd argue that the difference is not merely in the shape of the slices, and that your Chicagoan friend is very likely perceiving real variations in the taste- particularly in the crust- variations which go beyond something as simple as the order in which the various flavors present themselves to the palate, although that's another factor that would be worth considering in a discussion like this...

        2. Black beans in the Yucatan are always served pureed, I prefer them that way. My good kitty little veggo won't eat anything that is suspiciously square cornered. And he recoils away from pink slime, since before it had a name.

          Good kitty, my taster.

          1. If the food is prepared the same, but then changes "shape," no, it would not taste different. Of course, pureed carrots, cooked, will taste differently from a raw carrot stick. Same with boiled vs. baked vegetables. The baked versions have a sugar thing going on that comes out with roasting, which would taste a bit different than a boiled vegetable.

            1 Reply
            1. re: wyogal

              Exactly. Either one believes in science or doesn't. i.e. the biology of the human tongue / taste buds. We're talking TASTE, not mouthfeel, or texture. Or how it looks. Or what memories it evokes. TASTE. What hits the tongue and how it is perceived by the brain. Think blind-tasting.

            2. Could a cruller be a cruller without a double helix twist? How about the gazillion shapes of pasta, are they really all equal?

              9 Replies
              1. re: Veggo

                But, the question was about taste. The same food, but in a different shape. Yes, if the pasta is the same type of pasta, same ingredients, I think it would taste the same. It would be different in texture or shape, but the taste would be the same.

                1. re: wyogal

                  Gotcha. Would you order a flat waffle if it cost a dime less than a waffled waffle? Taste is often a symphony of flavors, not an island. How about that butter and maple syrple welling up in those waffles? You want it sliding off the edge of the plate?

                  1. re: Veggo

                    If the syrup slides off the plate such that it is not tasted in conjunction with the waffle, then yes, it WILL be different. That's not the question.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      That wasn't the question. Two foods prepared differently are going to taste differently. There is more caramelization going on in the waffle because of the way it is cooked, with the increased surface area. Like what I said about a boiled vegetable compared to a roasted vegetable. The question was about shape, not different preparation.
                      and if I cut up the flat one, as well as the waffle, with the same syrup and butter, yes, it would taste the same.

                      1. re: wyogal

                        I think we might be in this together, wyogal! I got you....

                  2. re: Veggo

                    RE: pasta. Yes. If you use the same dough and make it into different shapes, it TASTES the same.

                    Does the elbow shape direct the egg in the dough to a particular area of the tongue that best tastes it? Does the little ear of orecchiette inhibit that same direction and thus evoke a different taste?

                    The reason for the shapes is that there are functional differences in how the different shapes hold sauces. That's it.

                    1. re: thegforceny

                      I haven't disagreed with either of you, I have asked rhetorical questions. And I won't put the other foot in a gender-trap set by the nefarious ipsedixit!

                      1. re: Veggo

                        "gender-trap". What does this have to do with gender?

                  3. Would something pureed taste different than a whole piece of the same thing because once it is pureed a chemical reaction starts to take place? Just wondering. I'm not enough of a kitchen scientist to state this; just enough of one to ask it.

                    1. I think part of the difficulty with the question is the meanings (definitions you are using) of "taste" and of "shape." There is that whole psychology behind taste more broadly defined that allows expectations to alter perceptions.

                      Thegforceny asked, "Does he believe in science? Does he know how a human tongue works? Taste buds?" with the implication that taste only involves the activities of taste buds (presumably on the tongue). Yet, we know that smell, which is not thought to be mediated by taste bud activation, also plays a huge role in taste perception. There is evidence that the visual appearance of food also plays a role, so it would seem possible that shape, which is partly assessed by appearance, could contribute to taste perception.

                      On another level, there is the fact that shape of food affects how and in which order different flavor molecules reach the taste and smell receptors. A pizza slice eaten folded in half with the toppings in the middle will taste different than one eaten folded in half with the crust in the middle. Same with a sandwich in which the mustard or other sauce condiment is spread on the outside rather than on the inside, or with the cheese directly adjacent to the meat vs separated from the meat by lettuce and tomatoes. That's not even touching the potent influence of textures on perception of tastes (Americans tend to hate slimy foods, for instance).

                      Then there's the issue of the microarchitecture of foods. I would think that pureeing, and mashing, would disrupt more cell walls/cell membranes, allowing for greater release and mixing of cellular contents, which could surely affect how foods taste.

                      Of course, there's a big difference between pureeing beans or potatoes, on the one hand, and slicing pizza into wedges vs squares, on the other. With the pizza slices, one question would be how big are the slices, and another one would be whether the edge of the crust is included in the tasting (with wedges, the crust typically is included, while with squares it often won't be) -- the edge of the crust has a different flavor than the rest of the pizza slice. The center of a pie tends to cook differently (at a different rate) than the edges, and often has a different density of toppings, so depending on the kind of toppings and how large the slices are, a square taken from the center could conceivably taste a bit different than one taken from the periphery.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: racer x

                        Take for example salt.

                        Table salt and kosher salt, people say, will taste different even though the sodium content by weight will be the same. The reasoning being that the shape of the table salt is finer and thus dissolve faster on the tongue.

                        Or take sugar. Table or granulated sugar will taste sweeter than, for example, rock sugar simply because it dissolves more readily on the tongue, but yet by weight both will have the same amount of sucrose.

                        Going back to my previous example of pureed carrots versus whole carrots. Won't the way we actually eat those foods in the mouth (chewing versus swallowing) make a difference on how we perceive each food item actually tastes?

                      2. I'll bet Möbius strip fruit rolls would be out-of-this-world.

                        1. If you consider that the shape of a wineglass can change the taste of wine, then I would think the shape of food could change its taste as well.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: foiegras

                            The Yardbirds addressed this subject well in 1966 with " Shapes of Things" - Jeff Beck at his best. www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zn2JFlteeJ0

                            1. re: foiegras

                              In the example of pureed baked beans, wouldn't the fact that the bland insides of the beans have been exposed and blended into the sauce make the dish taste more mild? You wouldn't get the pure tomato/molasses/sugar flavorof the sauce directly on your tongue.

                              When you puree the ingredients, you are changing not only the shape, but the composition of the dish. With the beans, the sauce may actually be swallowed before you chew up all the beans, so you have two flavors in that bite. When pureed, all of the components are reaching the taste buds at the same time.

                              1. re: jmcarthur8

                                Not sure the Yardbirds were talking about the shapes of food ;)

                                Yes, I think you're right. It's all about how the food is delivered to the taste buds, and pureeing creates a completely different delivery system.

                            2. I would think running something through the food processor might bring out more of the moisture, thus changing the taste. As far as shapes, take chicken parts cooked separately as opposed to in a whole chicken. In my opinion completely different flavors. Same as ground beef as opposed to the same cut as a steak