This review summarizes the various outcomes that may occur when two or more elements are paired in the context of flavour perception. In the first part, I review the literature concerning what happens when flavours, ingredients, and/or culinary techniques are deliberately combined in a dish, drink, or food product. Sometimes the result is fusion but, if one is not careful, the result can equally well be confusion instead. In fact, blending, mixing, fusion, and flavour pairing all provide relevant examples of how the elements in a carefully-crafted multi-element tasting experience may be combined. While the aim is sometimes to obscure the relative contributions of the various elements to the mix (as in the case of blending), at other times, consumers/tasters are explicitly encouraged to contemplate/perceive the nature of the relationship between the contributing elements instead (e.g., as in the case of flavour pairing). There has been a noticeable surge in both popular and commercial interest in fusion foods and flavour pairing in recent years, and various of the ‘rules’ that have been put forward to help explain the successful combination of the elements in such food and/or beverage experiences are discussed. In the second part of the review, I examine the pairing of flavour stimuli with music/soundscapes, in the emerging field of ‘sonic seasoning’. I suggest that the various perceptual pairing principles/outcomes identified when flavours are paired deliberately can also be meaningfully extended to provide a coherent framework when it comes to categorizing the ways in which what we hear can influence our flavour experiences, both in terms of the sensory-discriminative and hedonic response.
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