Thursday, October 11, 2007

The bottomless bowl of cookie names:

Brian Wansink recently received an Ignobel prize for his Bottomless Bowl of Soup experiment. A good-natured scientist, he picked up his ignobel in person, even though I'm sure he feels, as I do, that he was getting the reward for brilliant experiment that demonstrated something truly useful. Wansink's research often illuminates how people decide when to stop eating, and this Ignobel story reminded me of when I was 18 years old and a camp counselor for the first time.

Before bedtime, a counselor from each bunk (my campers were 8 years old) picked up the milk and cookie snack that ended each day. We wanted our kids to eat this snack before bedtime (what did we know? It was 1959). An ongoing concern was the cookies: flat, blah sugar cookies without the slightest interesting variation. I made up names for the cookies each night: sasquatch cookies, umga blamga cookies, sugar-tower-armadillo cookies, whatever. The kids were always eager to hear what I would call them, and my co-counselor and I thought the names made the snacks go down better. (Wansink has done other research into how naming food can make it more or less desirable.)

In mid-summer, my parents visited me on my weekly day off. They brought me a Gugelhupf from our favorite Manhattan babka bakery. I ate some of it, and, at day's end, brought the rest back to share with the kids. As I held out the cake to them, they asked, "What's it called?" I think you can tell yourselves the end of this story.
Post a Comment