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It is a held contention that food is more than fuel, and that eating should be a pleasure, appealing to all the senses. This page considers some basic principles.
The appearance of food can be a major contribution to enjoyment. Arrange the food on the plate with the same care you would use in creating a work of art - balancing colors and forms in a harmonious arrangement. To show off the food and put everyone at ease about cleanliness, use bright white (not yellowish) lighting with pure white dishes and clear glasses.
The tongue recognises five basic flavors: salty, sweet, savoury, bitter and sour. One of the keys to a successful meal is to balance these, both within individual dishes and across different courses. It is usual to ready the palate with a cleansing neutral dish such as a consomme. Finish a formal meal with a sweet dessert, which customarily marks the psychological end of the event.
It's important to note that the hotness of a chile pepper is not a taste. The hotness is actually pain from the chemical capsaicin, so it affects the skin. Caution must be taken when chile peppers are handled.
The most important sense in preparing and cooking food is the sense of smell. It adds subtlety to the experience, which the tongue itself cannot recognise. The smell of food being prepared is one of the greatest stimulators of appetite.
Think about the acoustic environment. Many meals in big restaurants are ruined because their surroundings are just too noisy. A shared meal should encourage conversation, and too much background noise can ruin that. Rule of thumb: the more people at the meal, the louder the background noise can be. If you're going to have background music, match the mood to the food. A classic bouillabaisse, for example, is likely to taste better to a soundtrack of Georges Brassens.
Touch might be better described as "texture". The crumb of a baked good can be coarse or fine, the texture of one cut of meat may tend to be more tender or tough than another, and a family may prefer creamy smooth mashed potatoes or may enjoy them more with some lumps left in. The purpose of many techniques in cookery and baking is to allow the cook to control the texture of the finished product.
The temperature at which a food is served can affect the way it is experienced. Generally, sweet foods can be served cold (like ice cream), while for more subtle and aromatic foods a warmer temperature releases more of the flavor.