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There's a belief in some cultures that if you look at your being-cooked food from the beginning till the end, you will have a more delicious food compared to when you leave the food to be cooked.

Is this scientifically real or just a cooking myth?

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    Define "delicious"...delicious as in "pleasant to taste"...or delicious as in "a delightful experience?" Your vision does not impact actual flavor, but it can certainly impact how you experience what you eat. – moscafj Nov 10 '20 at 14:13
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    I’m voting to close this question because this question has nothing to do with food but specific cultures. – Divi Nov 11 '20 at 21:07
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I can think of two potential things that might affect how delicious food is:

  1. If you're the one cooking, constantly watching the food makes sure you don't burn it or do something else that might adversely affect it.

  2. For everyone involved, cooking or not, it can help to build anticipation. You'll smell the food cooking, and may trigger physiological changes (stomach rumbling, anticipatory salivation, etc.) as your body prepares for food.

As your body has an opportunity to start thinking about the food and there's a period of denial (as the food hasn't been served yet), the food may seem more delicious than food that's only set down before you just as you're preparing to eat. (Although, if the food quality is lacking and doesn't match what you've been anticipating, it's possible that your enjoyment would be worse)

To know if it's truly eyesight that's required, you would probably have to do some experiments -- watching someone cook behind a glass window or via closed circuit TV so you can't smell it being cooked; being blindfolded so you're in the same place to get the smells but can't actually see the food being cooked, etc.

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    Now that I got the right meaning of the quesiton, I think your point 1 is the right one - the OP could be taking literally some proverb that admonishes cooks to not leave sensitive food unattended. – rumtscho Nov 11 '20 at 9:29
  • @rumtscho : or it could be a proverb about not trusting people making your food to not add questionable ingredients. – Joe Nov 11 '20 at 18:06
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Myth. There isn't even a plausible mechanism by which staring at your food would affect the flavour. It may have a tiny grain of truth in that you'll be more likely to prevent it from burning if you are paying attention rather than in a different room, but beyond that? No, myth.

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  • -1, there are both well-known mechanisms and empirical evidence. In fact, the whole idea of different senses contributing to mood in isolation goes against everything that is currently known about the psychology of perception. – rumtscho Nov 10 '20 at 14:10
  • @rumtscho Are you referring to quantum mechanics? – Philipp Nov 10 '20 at 14:50
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    @Philipp no, not at all. I am referring to the normal physiological functioning of human CNS. – rumtscho Nov 10 '20 at 15:02
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    @rumtscho everything you're saying only applies to the cook. There will be no effect on the food to make it taste better for anyone else eating it. – fyrepenguin Nov 10 '20 at 21:19
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    @fyrepenguin ding-dong, thank you so much! I have to apologize to a lot of people today. Apparently I did not read the question properly, and was convinced the entire time that this is about the effect of the eater seeing the food they eat. – rumtscho Nov 10 '20 at 23:16
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If you are asking about the actual flavor of the food, then no, our eyesight (or watching food cook) does not impact the flavor of the food. However, many factors, that have nothing at all to do with flavor and aroma molecules impact how we perceive flavors and experience eating. Consider a thought experiment: Imagine your favorite food being prepared outdoors, next to a garbage dump on a hot humid day, with birds circling and insects buzzing vs. that same meal being prepared in a modern kitchen. (Though I guess in this example, we might have a mingling of aroma molecules). I imagine that you would experience that meal quite differently. One might be unappetizing, while the other might be perceived as delicious. Watching your food being prepared can certainly enhance your enjoyment of a meal. So, as I point out above, the answer really depends on your definition of "delicious."

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  • Also a -1, you are closer than Johanna, but eyesight does change the flavor of the food. Human perception does not separate the information incoming from different sensory "channels", it creates a gestalt and then the emotional valence is "decided" based on that gestalt plus a number of other factors. There are quite a few entertaining studies highlighting this - search e.g. for the effect of gummy bear color on flavor. – rumtscho Nov 10 '20 at 15:03
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    @rumtscho eyesight does not change flavor or aroma molecules, but I will allow for eyesight impacting our perception of those molecules. That was my point. – moscafj Nov 10 '20 at 15:05
  • The whole concept of "flavor" has no meaning outside of human perception. You cannot make a differnece between "flavor" and "our perception of flavor". It is one of the same thing, and it is very much influenced by eyesight. – rumtscho Nov 10 '20 at 15:06
  • Moscajf, I just realized that I had misread the question badly. Apologies, turned the downvote into an upvote. – rumtscho Nov 10 '20 at 23:18
  • Watching your food being cooked can negatively affect the outcome, too. Some people may be disgusted by some food preperation and raw source itself. – Rob Nov 11 '20 at 13:59
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Just to be devil's advocate…

All chefs being equal, I much prefer the dinner I didn't have to cook.
With my own, I know what's not right with it, be it big or small. When someone else cooked it, I don't know any of that.
Also, there's a great difference between being able to smell it cooking & being right next to it all the time. The first 15 mins of a beef stew don't smell all that great, but outside the room people can only smell the onions. By the time it starts to look & smell good, the whole house knows, without having to have watched it.

If you want me to eat liver & onions, don't let me see you preparing it.

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Mongolian grills are popular. Many factors affect how our we perceive the quality of our food, including presentation. Organoleptic testing is a big deal for food manufacturers, and less formally for individual cooks. Here's a bit of an introduction to it. It gets complicated and subjective fast, so I can't explain it all here. That said, if I see the server cut up my beautifully cooked and sauced cauliflowerinto bite size pieces to spoon onto my plate, it's not going to taste as good as it should. Same goes if I see someone pull a major boo-boo in the kitchen.

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