Fish and chips, sweet and sour sauce, bacon and eggs, rhubarb and custard: all good, socially acceptable food combos. Even quirkier ones are broadly fine: some people claim that dipping french fries into McFlurries is Actually Good, others eat pickle and peanut butter sandwiches. Heston Blumenthal exists. Fine.
But these are far from the weirdest combos around – in fact, scientists from the University of Cambridge claim that you should be eating your roast dinner with chocolate sauce.
That’s because of the chemical compounds that make up the two dishes.
Dr Sebastian Ahnert, who lead the research and presented it at the Hacking Flavour Perception conference at Oxford last week, calls it “computational gastronomy”.
“We can use datasets about food compounds to change the way we experience food,” he said. This reinterpretation of flavour could lead to unexpected combinations, he says.
But it doesn’t always work, even if chemical compounds are similar.
“Coffee and potato share a lot of compounds, so I made mashed potato with milky coffee,” he said.
“It was horrible.”
“But I’ve had a dish in Paris with coffee and potato that worked – the execution is a big part of it, and that’s where chefs can really help.”
Cooking food can also alter chemical compounds within ingredients, so foods that should, on paper, blend well together can end up being less than appetising.
Dr Ahnert also points to a few other flavour combos: the actually fairly tasty sounding roast chicken and seaweed, and the mildly less appetising pork and vanilla.
We’ll stick to apple sauce I think, mate.