Christmas menu sorted? Well, how good your festive fare tastes could actually be down to the cutlery, lighting and crockery, say Oxford boffins

Christmas is the time to eat, be merry and conduct a lot of silly surveys, apparently.


If you’re in a flap about your bird or bothered by boiling those Brussels, relax. That lacklustre lunch can be transformed into a feast with a few (non-cooking related) tips. Oh yes.


Charles Spence, professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University and who has helped Heston Blumenthal create many of his signature dishes at the Fat Duck, says that changing the cutlery, lighting and crockery has a big impact on the food.


It’s all about the experience, got it? Best polish off the silver then. Ermmmm. 

Step one: set the scene

It’s all about Christmas nostalgia, okay? Spence says: “That might be through the smell of pine, cinnamon or fir trees.

“Playing carols and candlelight are also great for setting the scene. That will heighten the sense of occasion.”


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Cinnamon and pine cones

Allie_Caulfield / CC-BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr: wm_archiv

Step two: the table

Dust off those Downton Abbey boxsets and call in Mrs Hughes because they’re not talking about a couple of Christmas napkins and a dusting of glitter.

The cutlery:
The weight of your cutlery (and wine glasses) has an impact on the perceived quality of the food (we’ll be attaching small weights to our forks) and don’t even get Charles started on the colours ... 

The plates:
If you’ve underestimated the amount of food needed (does anyone?) then serve up your grub on a red plate – the colour sends an unconscious warning signal to the brain, obviously.


Go with green bowls for serving sprouts – it takes away the bitter taste. Hmm.


And for dessert? White plates. They will make your puds taste sweeter according to Spence.

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Downton Abbey Table

Photo: ITV

Step three: the food

Prepare to get creative. Spence says: “Making the food look artistic rather than just dumping it on the plate will also increase the perceived value of the food.”

Okay, but any tips, Charlie? “Steer clear of displaying food asymmetrically … people generally prefer symmetry on their plates.”

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Step four: enjoy 


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Fat cat

Dan Perry / CC-BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr: golf_pictures

Master the Christmas dinner with this roast turkey with cranberry stuffing and pigs in blankets recipe, crunchy roast potatoes or get-ahead gravy recipe.