The first I’ve only glanced at, the second I’ve read a couple chapters. But both Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc” and David Kessler’s “The End of Overeating” are important books for the fans of food, or anyone curious about how restaurants (and other commercial establishments) go about making their customers want to eat.

Kessler uses a ton of repetition and observation to drive home his points. He talks to an unnamed industry insider, points out the constant use of double frying to embed even more fat into foods. The point of all this is that foods high in the “three points of the compass”, salt, fat, and sugar will tend to entice the appetite. This effect has been studied repeatedly in the lab.

Then by chance, he put a rat on a lab bench near some fallen Froot Loops, the high-calorie, high-sugar cereal. He was struck by how fast the animal picked up the cereal and started to eat it.

Sclafani turned that casual observation into a more formal experiment. After familiarizing test animals with the taste of Froot Loops, he let them loose in the open field. Rats prefer to stay in corners and won’t readily venture across a field to eat chow pellets, but when Froot Loops were available, they scurried over to them.

One useful thing that the Kessler book does is talk about thin people obsessing over food, even when they’re not inclined to eat. I’m finding that personally useful as I’m to a first approximation, hungry all the time, except after dinner. It’s only at dinner time I can get the volume of vegetables to feel “satisfied”. It is nice to know that I’m not alone.

Kessler’s thesis is easy enough to test. I’ve done it inadvertently a couple times. The tacos at Garcia’s left me ravenous. And if you try, oh, some bread and a teaspoon of olive oil, and then try enough green olives to match the fat in the oil, the shock of the salt and the taste of pimento will create more of a “taste sensation” in your mouth, and in my case, certainly more of an urge to eat or drink.

Advertisements