Perceptions of the mouth

RE.TREAT by Estela Gless

RE.TREAT captures the physical sensations known as “mouthfeel”

After receiving her Bachelor's degree at the "Instituto Culinario de Mexico", Estela Gless went on to graduate from the "Zürcher Hochschule der Künste" with a Master of Arts in Design Trends and Identity. With more than ten years of experience in the culinary arts, she developed a sophisticated and, may we say, delicious project for her MA graduation: RE.TREAT, exploring physical and emotional sensory perceptions in the mouth. We asked Estela to tell us a bit more about her concept and how she developed it.

RE.TREAT captures the physical sensations known as “mouthfeel” and includes aspects of memory and emotion, using ice cream as an explorative research field. I discovered that its consumption provides a small time-out of everyday life by triggering senses, memories and the emotions of relaxation and happiness. RE.TREAT focuses on the mouth experience and intrigues the mind through surprise and sensory incongruity with unexpected pairing of sensory information, such as size, shape, flavour and texture. The result is a series of “Mouth Toys”, objects designed to provoke such a time-out. 

The name RE.TREAT is a playful composition, originating from the food category frozen treats and treatment. While the first implies enjoyment and relaxation the second describes the act of healing and wellbeing. RE.TREAT also refers to re-producing a past “treat” experience.

I started this project wishing to develop an ice popsicle that could offer some of the current food trends, like natural-local flavours, healthy and food waste reduction. While nothing was settled, I was just curious and ready to explore everything about “ice treats”.

Mind Map: The mind map is the result of interviews, surveys, cultural probes and tastings. It conveys all the information patterns found during my research.

After collecting and analysing my research data, I discovered that ice cream consumption goes way beyond flavour preferences. I was fascinated by consumer behaviours and the emotionality involved. In a final mind map, I highlighted the interaction between senses, memories and emotions. I concluded that these three categories unite during the act of eating in our “mouth”. Therefore, to me, Mouthfeel is not only the texture of food but also the impact that it evokes in the way we perceive and enjoy a product. Mouthfeel recalls previous experiences (edible memories) and sparks unique emotions, it can define whether we like what we eat or not. The perception of our visual and olfactory senses is verified and enhanced in our mouth, we process information through it. 

With this in mind, I kept researching and found theoretical inputs that inspired me for the design of the mouth toys, in particular Neurogastronomy, Gastrophysics, Sensory incongruity and surprise.

With my development idea I wished to bring focus on the mouth experience through oral exploration of shape, size, flavour and texture. When orally exploring the mouth toy, our mind is busy figuring out what the mouth toy is about. We thereby pause from previous thoughts and concentrate to try to understand what it is…this situation I call escaping moment or time out.

My project RE.TREAT has different layers, which encourage experimentation. Currently, I am producing ice lollies with different flavours and textures aiming to evoke surprise and happiness.



Read more about Estela on her website or LinkedIn.