Jonah Lehrer at Wired has a nice post regarding a couple of studies about 1) how people can't distinguish between cheap wine an expensive wine in blind tastings... but 2) how if they're told a wine is more expensive they enjoy it more. I've mentioned this kind of thing a few weeks ago, but my angle was more from the behavioral economics scene than the "see what parts of your brain light up in an fMRI machine" one, and I also thought his take home message was particularly nice:
We should realize that we can make our wines much more delicious, if only we take the time to learn about them. Because we don’t need to spend a fortune on old fruit juice – price is not the only way to raise expectations. (It’s also, you know, an expensive way to raise expectations.) If my tippling experience has taught me anything, it’s that we can also make our wines taste better by delving into the history of the varietal or the region or the pretty picture on the label. And that’s why I will always be one of those annoying people who insists on muttering about malolactic fermentation while pouring Chardonnay, or on explaining the genetic kinship between Primitivo and Zinfandel when all you want is a damn glass to go with your red-sauce pasta.It occurs to me that learning about cooking and food might be a nice way to "raise expectations" and make your food test better.