There is a phrase in English that refers to food: “the first bite is with the eye.” This has been an important mantra for expensive Michelin star restaurants where the dishes are carefully constructed works of art. But is food’s appearance more important than its flavour? Recent investigations carried out by scientists at the University of Florida and the United States Department of Agricultural Research have shown that the genes that make tomatoes bright red and very pretty to look at actually reduce the amount of other genes that make tomatoes taste really great. If you’ve ever eaten a tomato in the US or the UK and compared it to a tomato from Italy or Spain you will know what I’m talking about. The tomatoes in those Mediterranean countries are strange looking, bulbous, green, yellow and red beasts; they look like modern art sculptures, and for somebody, like me, that is used to round, red tomatoes, they don’t look very appetizing. But when you taste one the flavors are incredible. It was only when I tasted a “tomate Raf” in Spain that I realized what tomatoes were supposed to taste like: unbelievably delicious! Of course the sunny climate in Spain and Italy are ideal for growing delicious fruit, but there are also no regulations, like there are in the UK, that say that tomatoes should be red and round otherwise you can’t sell them. When it comes to eating the best tomatoes just shut your eyes and enjoy.
If you like the idea of closing your eyes to eat your food, then there are a few restaurants around the world that have gone completely against the phrase mentioned above about the first bite being with the eye. Dans le Noir (French for “In the Night”) is a chain of restaurants where diners eat in the pitch black. You can’t see anything at all! There are restaurants in 21 locations worldwide and they were started as an initiative to give blind people work (all the waiters are blind), and to allow people with sight to experience what it is like to be blind. It is thought that with the sense of sight incapacitated the other senses are enhanced so you can put all your energy into experiencing the flavor of the food. The social experience is a different one too at these restaurants. The diners sit at large communal tables, and because you can’t see anybody you cannot judge them or make any preconceptions, you just have to talk to them. This is an incredible experience for food lovers and people that like to try out new things.