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Easy cooking tip: fun names create delicious food

Brian Wansink, the fearlessly inquisitive researcher behind Mindless Eating and the Small Plate movement, has a new project: the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement ("it's not nutrition until it's eaten").  I heard a talk with Brian  this week with many exciting ideas from his new book, Slim By Design, coming out next March.

My favorite? Give food fun names to make it more appealing. He found that diners who tried identical servings of chocolate cake or fish sticks rated the food and the cooks higher when these dishes were called more poetic names:

  • Belgium Black Forest Chocolate Cake
  • Italian Oven-Roasted Fish Sticks

People also like Ancient Chateau wine better than North Dakota wine, even when both are actually Two-Buck Chuck. The Tiger Squash shown above is one of my most popular recipes, perhaps because I don't call it butternut squash. Fun Cook for Good recipe names include Cuban Black Beans, Countdown Trail Mix, Grown-Up Mustard Greens ("May I see your ID, sir?"), and Sweet Heart, Strong Heart Chocolate Cake.

Wansink says people respond well to stories about the food too, such as "Tuscan Power Stew was eaten by Roman wrestlers."

What about "local"?

I asked if students ate more food identified as "local" compared to food from "Frisky Dog Farm." He said that students tend to not care at all about local, GMO-free, organic (sigh), and other terms that some adults salivate over. Instead, he recommends naming food for the local sports teams and painting the cafeteria in the school colors.

I'll share more of his wisdom later, but for now, use your language skills to wow people about your cooking skills. Share your fun food names in the comments below.

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