The first episode of the widely loved sketch comedy series Portlandia opens in a restaurant. If you haven't seen Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen inquire so deeply into a chicken's life story that they learn its name is Colin, give it a watch. We love to laugh at it because locavore dining can get deeply absurd if we let it.
There may be more to the joke than we imagined, though: New research from researchers at the University of Copenhagen have just published a study that suggests our psychology plays into our sense of taste in unexpected ways. Our favorite foods tend to be familiar ones, whether it's tried-and-true boxed junk or a family recipe. When we try new dishes, we may not fully know how to analyze their quality beyond our initial reaction. The Danish researchers found that there's one cost-effective way to improve how we taste new foods, and that's learning more about where its ingredients come from.
"Here it was clear that other elements of the experience, such as the pride of eating food made from local produce and using traditional production methods, significantly changed the perception of the food," said study co-author Michael Bom Frøst. We already know that something as trivial as menu fonts can change how we feel about a meal. Whether you're dining out or serving up a spread, let yourself get curious about the work that went into your food. Sure, it might feel funny at first — but your taste buds and your brain are going to thank you later.