Science of Food: Bar Snacks, Trix, and Quaker Oats

Curated by CLAI

FOOD & EYE CONTACT: Making eye contact even with a character on a cereal box inspires powerful feelings of connection. Look inside your kitchen cabinet and odds are you have a collection of old friends gazing back at you — the Quaker Oats man, the Sun-Maid girl, Aunt Jemima and maybe a Keebler elf or two. The reason they are there may have more do with your subconscious craving for eye contact than the taste of the products.

  • In the gaze of the cartoon rabbit on Trix cereal boxes, adult subjects were more likely to choose Trix over competing brands if the rabbit was looking at them rather than away. In a creepy corollary, the eyes of characters on boxes of cereal marketed to kids were directed downward, and can meet the upward gaze of children in grocery store aisles.
  • Only actual eye contact fully activates those parts of the brain that allow us to more acutely and accurately process another person’s feelings and intentions. Think of it as a cognitive jump-start that occurs whenever you lock eyes with another person, whether in front of you or across a crowded room.
  • Even the brains of legally blind people have been shown to light up when someone looks them in the eye. It’s a sort of primal awareness and why you sometimes feel someone is looking at you before you turn and see them.
Bar snack

Enough with stale peanuts and soggy pretzels. The American bar snack has become a thing of refinement. Here, giant curls of potato chips served with a smoked-onion rémoulade ($5) at the chef Marc Forgione’s namesake restaurant in TriBeCa. “It looks like a python of potato,” Mr. Forgione said. “What’s better than chips and dip when you’re at a bar?” (Nancy Borowick, NYTimes)

RISE OF BAR FOOD: The elevation of the American cocktail has led to a corresponding gift to booze hounds everywhere: the refinement of the American bar snack. Influenced by the izakayas of Japan, the tapas counters of Spain, the gastro pubs of England and mixology trailblazers like PDT in the East Village, bar owners and restaurateurs have brought a new level of care, craft and passion to something that used to be a negligible form of human nourishment.

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