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Food Pairings Strike Balanced "Mouthfeel"

Researchers say they have figured out the facts behind why specific foods work well together as a pair.

Researchers say they have figured out the facts behind why specific foods work well together as a pair.


Rutgers University scientists say that food combinations—such as wine and cheese or oil and vinegar—combine an astringent food, which makes the mouth pucker up, with a fatty food that makes it feel slippery. The researchers also state that these specific pairings are caused by a sensation in the mouth known as the "mouthfeel."

Lead researcher Paul Breslin, professor of Nutritional Science at Rutgers University, said that the mouthfeel is a combined awareness of both physical and chemical interactions between the mouth's tissues and saliva and the chemicals in foods. "The kernel of this idea of pairing astringents with fats is found in gastronomies all over the planet, but it's never been clear how or why these pairings work," said Breslin.

According to Breslin, the oily fat in certain foods lubricate the inside of the mouth, making it feel greasy and slippery. He also said that when combined with astringent foods' chemical compounds, like the tannins in wine and green tea, the mouth becomes dry and rough. The foods' chemical reactions chemically bind with the lubricant proteins in saliva. Because of this, he said the proteins bunch together and become solid; this process leaves the tongue and gums' surfaces without their natural layer of fat.

Breslin said that the balance between the two kinds of foods is a fine line because people don't want their taste buds and mouths over-lubricated. "We don't like slimy, but we don't like puckered up, either," said Breslin.

He also said that his research team is also unsure of how the balance is struck because green tea and other astringent foods are only mildly astringent. "In our study, we show that astringents reduce the lubricants in the mouth during a fatty meal and return balance," said Breslin.

For more information, please visit: http://news.rutgers.edu/medrel/special-content/fall-2012/why-wine-and-tea-pai-20121009

Image Credit: Oil and Vinegar via Shutterstock