Growing up, we're all taught the dos and don'ts of eating at the dinner table. No elbows on the table, no licking your fingers, cutlery in the correct hands at all times – these are just a few of the table manners that are drilled into us from day dot. Of course, the most important rule of all has always been to chew with your mouth closed. Until now, it seems.
That's because some scientists have turned the dining table rule book on its head with their latest statement, claiming that eating with your mouth open can actually make your food taste better. Nan, look away now!
"We've been doing it all wrong," Professor Charles Spence at Oxford University told The Telegraph. "Parents instil manners in their children, extolling the virtues of politely chewing with our mouths closed."
He went on: "However, chewing open mouthed may actually help to release more of the volatile organic compounds, contributing to our sense of smell and the overall perception."
For those who don't know (read: us), volatile organic compounds are chemicals that make up the smells and flavours in your food.
But, as shocking as the revelation may sound to those dedicated to dining etiquette, the notion shouldn't be too hard to wrap our heads around – after all, anyone who has ever been on a wine tasting session will know that taking in a bit of air as you sip enhances the beverage's taste.
And that's not the only reason, as there's another sense that comes into play as far as flavour goes: sound!
"When it comes to sound, we like noisy foods – think crunchy, crispy. Both crisps and apples are rated as more pleasurable when the sound of the crunch is amplified," Spence pointed out. "To best hear the crunch of an apple, a potato crisp, a carrot stick, a cracker, crispbread or a handful of popcorn, we should always ditch our manners and chew with our mouths open."
If you want to go one step further on your journey to more flavour, Spence advises ditching cutlery altogether and eating with your hands, too. "Our sense of touch is also vital in our perception of food on the palate," he explained. "The research shows that what you feel in the hand can change or bring out certain aspects of the tasting experience."
Finally, he said: "While licking fingers after eating with our hands is never encouraged in polite circles, research would suggest we ought to consider scrapping the etiquette for utmost sensory enjoyment.
"Or consider only how pleasant it can be to lick the bowl with your finger when making a cake mix at home."
BRB, off to bake a cake...
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