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The Best Pie in All 50 States

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Pi Day isn't until March 14, but there's another pie-centric holiday on the calendar. Pie Day falls on January 23, and we're sharing our picks for the best pie in every state. Whether you prefer a classic apple or go for more unusual flavors (raspberry rhubarb jalapeño, anyone?), celebrate Pie Day with one of these delectable options.

1. ALABAMA // PIE LAB

Location: Greensboro, Alabama

This trendy community space serves fried chicken salads and various wraps and paninis, but the highlight are their pies, made with exceptionally buttery crusts. Have a slice of coconut cream or chocolate chess pie while you enjoy good conversation and a friendly vibe. And if you have a hankering for a real taste of home, chef Seaborn Whatley says they'll even try to duplicate an old family favorite if you happen to have your grandmother's recipe book on hand.

2. ALASKA // BEAR TOOTH THEATREPUB

Slice of caramel turtle fudge ice cream pie.
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Location: Anchorage, Alaska

The Bear Tooth Theatrepub is more than a dine-in movie theater—it's also a restaurant, draft brewery, and concert venue all in one. But after you've finished off some fresh Alaskan fish tacos, save room for the caramel turtle fudge ice cream pie. Made with an Oreo cookie crust, the pie manages to perfectly balance chocolate fudge, vanilla ice cream, and smooth caramel.

3. ARIZONA // PIEFECTION

Slice of lemon meringue pie.
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Location: Mesa, Arizona

This pie-only bakery focuses on top-notch ingredients such as fresh whipped cream, wild blueberries, and bars of authentic Belgian chocolate. The country apple pie, made with cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg (and can be made gluten-free with a day's notice), is a real standout. Or, cool off from the Arizona heat with a slice of lemon meringue, topped with beautifully toasted, swirled meringue.

4. ARKANSAS // FRANKE'S

The sign for Franke's Cafeteria in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Harold Wright, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Opened nearly a century ago in 1919, Franke's boasts three locations in Little Rock today. The cafeteria is popular for its burgers and candied sweet potatoes, and for its selection of outstanding pies, such as egg custard, chocolate cream, and sweet potato coconut.

5. CALIFORNIA // THE MADONNA INN BAKERY

pie from The Madonna Inn Bakery
Courtesy of The Madonna Inn Bakery

Location: San Luis Obispo, California

The whimsical Madonna Inn has provided rooms to travelers on California's Central Coast since 1958, and the hotel's bakery, situated inside the Copper Cafe, is an essential sweet stop along Highway 101. The magnificent pies come in flavors such as caramel Dutch apple, apricot, cherry, and cream cheese.

6. COLORADO // 3.14 SWEET & SAVORY PI BAR

Close-up of a pie.
Courtesy of 3.14 Sweet & Savory Pi Bar

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

3.14 Sweet & Savory Pi Bar is a fun bakery that pays homage to everyone's favorite mathematical constant. Pies here are creatively named; a few standouts are the Nutty Professor (peanut butter chocolate pie), I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts (coconut cream), and Wicked Southern Dutchman (Dutch apple pie with Kentucky bourbon).

7. CONNECTICUT // SIXPENCE PIE COMPANY

Slice of pie topped with bananas.
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Location: Southington and New Haven, Connecticut

Two friends who loved baking started Sixpence Pie Company at a local farmer's market, and have since opened two brick-and-mortar stores. Besides savory shepherd's pie and chicken pot pies, you'll find seasonal sweet pies and a mouthwatering sugar and spice pie, made with banana and Nutella.

8. DELAWARE // CANNON'S CUSTOM CAKES & BAKERY

Close-up of pecan pie.
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Location: Newark, Delaware

Since 1985, Cannon's Bakery has provided elaborate custom cakes for parties and special occasions, the result of mother-of-five Leah Cannon's well-known prowess at making cakes for friends and family. But you don't need a wedding or graduation as an excuse to take home one of the shop's delicious pies; pick up a pecan or apple pie, or a seasonal sugar-lattice fruit pie.

9. FLORIDA // JOE'S STONE CRAB

A slice of key lime pie.
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Location: Miami Beach, Florida

Back in 1913, Joe Weiss moved from New York to Miami to try to improve his asthma. The lunch counter he opened has morphed into a Miami Beach landmark that serves stellar seafood and perfect pies. Although key lime pie is the classic choice here, the chocolate pecan and apple pies are also marvelous.

10. GEORGIA // SUGAR SHACK

Slice of large chocolate pecan pie.
Courtesy of Sugar Shack

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

At this cozy coffee shop in a shopping center, you'll find dessert cases filled with tantalizing full and mini pies. The apple crumb and peach crumb pies are light and energizing, and the chocolate pecan pie has a richness that will make you feel sublime.

11. HAWAII // LEODA'S KITCHEN AND PIE SHOP

Rows of small chocolate macadamia nut pies.
Jennifer Cachola, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location: Lahaina, Hawaii

Located on the west side of Maui, Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop serves what it calls "glorified grandma comfort food." The macadamia nut chocolate praline and coconut cream pies are certainly comforting, in the way that only sugar and grandmas can be.

12. IDAHO // BIG CITY COFFEE AND CAFE

Cherry pie scone from Big City Coffee and Cafe
Courtesy of Big City Coffee and Cafe

Location: Boise, Idaho

Big City Coffee in the Linen District blurs the line between pies and scones with its spectacular cherry pie scone. The enormous creation is loaded with fruit and has a uniquely flaky, granular crust.

13. ILLINOIS // BANG BANG PIE & BISCUITS

Large crumb pie on a blue checkered background.
Courtesy of Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Stop at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits in Logan Square or Ravenswood for a tart apple cherry crumble pie or the best lemon pistachio pie of your life. Made with a shortbread crust, the pie contains lemon curd, buttermilk custard, and candied pistachios. The store also offers baking classes so you can learn to make your own pie creations at home.

14. INDIANA // MOM'S HOMEMADE PIES

Slice of gooseberry pie.
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Location: Kokomo, Indiana

Mom's Homemade Pies takes its name seriously. You won't find any mixers, which means that all the pie crust here is tender and silky. The gooseberry pie is loaded with fruit and the butterscotch cream pie will make you nostalgic for a simpler, sweeter time.

15. IOWA // DELUXE

Pies from Deluxe
Courtesy of Deluxe

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

Deluxe is an adorable French bakery located just one mile from the Iowa River. The bakers here use fresh, organic local apples to make an excellent double butter crust apple pie, and the strawberry rhubarb pie is also noteworthy for its subtle balance of sweet and tart.

16. KANSAS // THE UPPER CRUST PIE BAKERY

Pie from The Upper Crust Pie Bakery
Courtesy of The Upper Crust Pie Bakery

Location: Overland Park, Kansas

Opened by two sisters and their mom, this neighborhood bakery delights visitors with its authentically Midwestern approach to pies. Although most people love the peach raspberry and coconut custard pies, don't overlook the yummy brown sugar buttermilk pie.

17. KENTUCKY // ANNIE MAY'S SWEET CAFE

Pie from Annie May's Sweet Cafe
Courtesy of Annie May's Sweet Cafe

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

All of the treats at this allergy-friendly bakery are free of soy, gluten, peanuts, and tree nuts. But what the pies lack in allergens, they make up for in bold flavor. The store's glorious fruit pies are simple, pure, and absolutely delicious.

18. LOUISIANA // COWBELL

Slice of apple pie with caramel drizzle.
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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

This restaurant's name might make you think of the old Saturday Night Live skit, but once you dine at this dog-friendly eatery, you'll definitely say that you need more Cowbell. To chase the skirt steak or carne asada tacos, order the apple pie. It's served with crème anglaise and caramel, making for a tantalizing gustatory experience.

19. MAINE // TWO FAT CATS BAKERY

Close-up of a blueberry rhubarb pie.
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Location: Portland, Maine

Two Fat Cats Bakery is a truly special place devoted to baking pies (and other desserts) from scratch. Bakers hand roll every pie, use authentic New England ingredients, and advertise fruit pies based on the harvest months. For wild Maine blueberries, order the divine blueberry rhubarb pie in May or June. For this time of year? The Lemon Shaker or Bourbon Pecan pies will do the trick.

20. MARYLAND // RENATA'S TASTY BITES

Close-up of a decorative pie crust.
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Location: Columbia, Maryland

After moving from Croatia to the States, Renata Alanovic opened this delightful store in Columbia. Customers love her handmade sweet and savory pies and pastries, especially the wonderful cherry and pecan pies, all with extra embellishments on the crust.

21. MASSACHUSETTS // MIKE'S PASTRY

Takeout box at Mike's Pastry.
Kimberly Vardeman, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Location: Multiple locations, Massachusetts

With locations in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, Mike's Pastry has a strong presence in the greater Bean Town area. Grab a few Nutella cannoli and chow down on a slice of authentic Boston cream pie while you admire the ricotta pie's flawlessly golden top.

22. MICHIGAN // SISTER PIE

Three decorative pies on a tray.
Courtesy of Sister Pie

Location: Detroit, Michigan

Sister Pie treats pie with the utmost respect. Bakers make the crust by hand with unbleached flour and French butter, and they source local ingredients at peak ripeness for pie fillings. The salted maple and honey lemon meringue pies will blow your mind.

23. MINNESOTA // THE BUTTERED TIN

The Buttered Tin pie
Courtesy of The Buttered Tin

Location: St. Paul, Minnesota

This cafe and bakery in Lowertown serves coffee and pie that hit the spot when you need an extra boost to get through the day. You'll find different crusts made of butter, graham cracker, or sugar dough, and flavors range from a tart green apple to pumpkin chiffon.

24. MISSISSIPPI // WALKER'S DRIVE-IN

Two fried fruit pies.
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Location: Jackson, Mississippi

If you're in the Fondren arts district, you must head to Walker's Drive-In for a slice of the fried pie of the day. Depending on the day, you might enjoy an upside down blueberry pie or a chocolate pecan pie, served with bourbon vanilla ice cream.

25. MISSOURI // IT'S EASY AS PIE

Four pretty, mini pies.
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Location: Fenton, Missouri

If you find it hard to pick just one flavor of pie to eat, It's Easy As Pie has you covered. Order their Cutie Pies for a dozen assorted mini pies that will make your tastebuds ecstatic. Or get a whole bananas foster pie, which contains creme brûlée infused with dark rum.

26. MONTANA // BLACK CAT BAKE SHOP

Half of a huckleberry lattice pie.
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Location: Missoula, Montana

This charming family-owned bakery is popular for its stollen (a German fruit and nut loaf) and stupendous pies. The huckleberry pie earns raves for its effortless balance of sweet and tart flavors.

27. NEBRASKA // MODERN LOVE

Modern Love pie
Courtesy of Modern Love

Location: Omaha, Nebraska

Three words: vegan comfort food. After you chow down on latkes, seitan gyros, or wild mushroom schnitzel, get ready for some of the best pie of your life. The apple ginger pie is served with a coconut whip, and the blood orange coconut cream pie is made with a snickerdoodle crust.

28. NEVADA // WET HEN CAFE

Large apple pie with a slice missing.
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Location: Reno, Nevada

Wet Hen Cafe is located in a nondescript strip mall, but don't overlook this homespun spot. Generously stuffed with apple slices, the apple pie is huge, heavenly, and served with cinnamon sauce.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // CHEZ VACHON

Cranberry pie with a bowl of cranberries beside it.
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Location: Manchester, New Hampshire

This superb restaurant serves heaping plates of poutine as well as a huge selection of fruit and cream pies. Highlights include the pistachio cream and cranberry walnut cheesecake pies.

30. NEW JERSEY // THE PIE STORE

The Pie Store pie
Courtesy of The Pie Store

Location: Upper Montclair, New Jersey

Anglophiles love The Pie Store for its impressive selection of British groceries. You'll find plenty of savory pies (shepherd's pie, chicken and mushroom) as well as spectacular sweet pies, like their key lime. They make their fruit pies, like the cran-apple or raspberry-blackberry-apple, with a double crust, or stop in Saturday or Sunday to get the weekend-only coconut custard and chocolate mousse pies.

31. NEW MEXICO // TUNE-UP CAFE

A strawberry rhubarb pie.
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Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

The husband-wife team at Tune-Up Cafe serves an eclectic mix of tamales, pupusas, and homemade, gluten-free pies. Order the pie of the day a la mode for a taste of blueberry, maple pecan, or strawberry rhubarb pie with vanilla bean ice cream.

32. NEW YORK // PIED PIPER PIES

pies from Pied Piper Pies
Courtesy of Pied Piper Pies

Location: Highland Falls, New York

At Pied Piper Pies, the crust is flaky and the filling is satisfying. Whether you sample a quiche, pot pie, or sweet pie, you'll be able to taste the care and love that goes into each creation. Pro tip? Get the Samoa or Snickers pies for a sweet blast of nostalgia.

33. NORTH CAROLINA // THE PIE HOLE

A slice of s'mores pie.
Courtesy of The Pie Hole

Location: Durham, North Carolina

With locations in southern California, Tokyo, and Durham, The Pie Hole has perfected the art of making pie. Toasted marshmallow creme, dark chocolate mousse, and a graham cracker crust comprise the stellar s'mores pie.

34. NORTH DAKOTA // MEZZALUNA

A piece of caramel apple pie.
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Location: Fargo, North Dakota

This upscale restaurant behind the Fargo Theatre is known for its filet mignon and insanely decadent desserts. The caramel apple pie is served with vanilla bean ice cream, but it's small, so you'll want to savor every bite (or order two).

35. OHIO // MAMA JO HOMESTYLE PIES

Slice of chocolate mousse pie.
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Location: Amherst and Medina, Ohio

If you don't appreciate lard's essential role in making the perfect pie crust, stay away from Mama Jo Homestyle Pies. For everyone else, enjoy a slice of Buckeye cream pie, which contains silky layers of chocolate and peanut butter mousse.

36. OKLAHOMA // THE MERCANTILE

The Mercantile pie
Courtesy of The Mercantile

Location: Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Hands down, the best pie in the Sooner State can be found at The Mercantile. This store and cafe owned by Food Network superstar Ree Drummond (a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman) serves exceptional pecan pie made with toasted Oklahoma pecans, brown sugar custard, and bourbon vanilla whipped cream.

37. OREGON // PETUNIA'S PIES AND PASTRIES

A sour cherry pie.
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Location: Portland, Oregon

This charmingly alliterative bakery makes small batches of vegan, gluten-free pastries using a blend of millet flour, almond meal, and flaxseeds. It's hard to pick favorites, but some of the best pies here are the lattice top sour cherry and double crust blackberry peach.

38. PENNSYLVANIA // OAKMONT BAKERY

Oakmont Bakery pie
Courtesy of Oakmont Bakery

Location: Oakmont, Pennsylvania

For 30 years, Oakmont Bakery has been famous for its Paczki (Polish stuffed doughnuts), but the homemade pies are in a league all their own. The Dutch apple seems like a must-order in Pennsylvania, but the spiky tufts on the coconut meringue are impossible to pass up.

39. RHODE ISLAND // THE WAYLAND BAKERY

The sign at Providence's Wayland Bakery.

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Pies at The Wayland Bakery come in eight-, nine-, or 10-inch pans, but when it comes to this 90-year-old bakery's pies, bigger is better. Standout flavors include sugar-free apple, coconut custard, and lemon meringue.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA // HAROLD'S CABIN

A slice of buttermilk pie.
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Location: Charleston, South Carolina

Located in a quiet residential neighborhood, Harold's Cabin is a restaurant and corner store with a small rooftop garden. Head there on a Saturday or Sunday for breakfast and enjoy sitting with other people who won't judge you for partaking in buttermilk or cranberry apple pie first thing in the morning.

41. SOUTH DAKOTA // THE PURPLE PIE PLACE

The Purple Pie Place pie
Courtesy of The Purple Pie Place

Location: Custer, South Dakota

The Black Hills region is famous for two attractions: Mount Rushmore National Memorial and The Purple Pie Place. Customers rave about the freshness of the blueberry pie and the creative mix of flavors in the raspberry rhubarb jalapeño pie.

42. TENNESSEE // PAULETTE'S RESTAURANT

A slice of chocolate whip pie.
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Location: Memphis, Tennessee

For four decades, Paulette's Restaurant has been a destination for fine dining and celebratory meals along the Mississippi River. Although the key lime pie is killer, get the Kahlua-mocha parfait pie. Nicknamed the K-pie, this extravagant dessert's crust is made with pecans and coconut.

43. TEXAS // PIE IN THE SKY PIE CO.

Pie In The Sky Pie Co. pie
Courtesy of Pie In The Sky Pie Co.

Location: Conroe, Texas

Drive 40 miles north of Houston, and you'll find Pie In The Sky Pie Co., a cafe and bakery that churns out a large selection of carefully curated pies. If you can handle the heat, get a slice of red hot apple pie, made with Red Hots cinnamon candies.

44. UTAH // THE DODO

A slice of Toll House pie at The Dodo.
Sam Klein, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Named after the extinct Mauritian bird, The Dodo serves humongous, heavenly slices of pie. Flavor options for the towering slices of pie include Toll House, banana cream cheese, and chocolate almond mousse.

45. VERMONT // THE HARTLAND DINER

A slice of cream pie.
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Location: Hartland, Vermont

Located on Route 5, this neighborhood diner is the perfect spot for a cup of joe and a slice of maple cream or chocolate cream pie. The servings are generous, including the giant dollop of whipped cream that practically hides the delicious pie underneath.

46. VIRGINIA // THE HORSESHOE

The Horseshoe pie
Courtesy of The Horseshoe

Location: South Hill, Virginia

If you're seeking the simple elegance of Depression Era pies—full recipes made with limited ingredients such as milk, sugar, eggs, and butter— head to this diner that has been open since the '30s. The former blacksmith shop now serves timelessly delicious buttermilk, brown sugar, and lemon chess pies.

47. WASHINGTON // SIMPLY SOULFUL

A slice of sweet potato pie.
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Location: Seattle, Washington

A family recipe for sweet potato pie inspired a mother and daughter to open Simply Soulful, a soul food and pie joint in Madison Valley. Sip espresso as you dig in to a sweet potato, apple, or mixed berry pie.

48. WEST VIRGINIA // OLIVER'S PIES

Oliver’s Pies pie
Courtesy of Oliver’s Pies

Location: Wheeling, West Virginia

Run by the Oliver family, Oliver's Pies makes handmade pies with the utmost care. The Dutch apple and peach pies are stuffed with fruit, and the chocolate peanut butter cream pie is rich and velvety.

49. WISCONSIN // STOCKHOLM PIE AND GENERAL STORE

Stockholm Pie and General Store pie
Courtesy of Stockholm Pie and General Store

Location: Stockholm, Wisconsin

Head to Stockholm Pie and General Store for an espresso bar, Wisconsin cheese, and pies galore. After chowing down on chicken pot pie, try the caramel apple crunch pie, which contains hand peeled and sliced apples, pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg, and caramel sauce.

50. WYOMING // THE PIE TIN

A slice of sour cream raisin pie.
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Location: Wheatland, Wyoming

You'll find cakes, cookies, and quick breads at this bakery and catering company, but the pies are truly special. The pumpkin and pecan pies are stellar, as are the more unusual butterscotch and sour cream raisin pies.

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Food
The Science Behind Why We Crave Loud and Crunchy Foods
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A number of years ago, food giant Unilever polled consumers asking how the company might improve their popular line of Magnum ice cream bars. The problem, respondents said, was that the chocolate coating of the bars tended to fall off too quickly, creating blotches of sticky goo on carpeting. Unilever reacted by changing the recipe to make the chocolate less prone to spills.

When they tested the new and improved product, they expected a warm reception. Instead, they got more complaints than before. While the updated bar didn’t make a mess, it also didn’t make the distinctive crackle that its fans had grown accustomed to. Deprived of hearing the coating collapse and crumble, the experience of eating the ice cream was fundamentally changed. And not for the better.

Smell and taste researcher Alan Hirsch, M.D. refers to it as the “music of mastication,” an auditory accompaniment to the sensory stimulus of eating. “For non-gustatory, non-olfactory stimulation, people prefer crunchiness,” he tells Mental Floss. Humans love crunchy, noisy snacks, that loud rattling that travels to our inner ear via air and bone conduction and helps us identify what it is we’re consuming. Depending on the snack, the noise can reach 63 decibels. (Normal conversations are around 60 dB; rustling leaves, 20 dB.)

When we hear it, we eat more. When we don’t—as in the case of Magnum bars, or a soggy, muted potato chip—we resort to other senses, looking at our food with doubt or sniffing it for signs of expiration. Psychologically, our lust for crispy sustenance is baked in. But why is it so satisfying to create a cacophony of crunch? And if we love it so much, why do some of us actually grow agitated and even aggressive when we hear someone loudly chomping away? It turns out there’s a lot more to eating with our ears than you might have heard.

 
 

The science of crunch has long intrigued Charles Spence, Ph.D., a gastrophysicist and professor of experimental psychology and head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford. Food companies have enlisted him and consulted his research across the spectrum of ingestion, from packaging to shapes to the sound chips make rustling around in grocery carts.

“We’re not born liking noisy foods,” he tells Mental Floss. “Noise doesn’t give a benefit in terms of nutrition. But we don’t like soggy crisps even if they taste the same. Missing the sound is important.”

In 2003, Spence decided to investigate the sonic appeal of chips in a formal setting. To keep a semblance of control, he selected Pringles, which are baked uniformly—a single Pringle doesn't offer any significant difference in size, thickness, or crunch from another. He asked 20 research subjects to bite into 180 Pringles (about two cans) while seated in a soundproof booth in front of a microphone. The sound of their crunching was looped back into a pair of headphones.

After consuming the cans, they were asked if they perceived any difference in freshness or crispness from one Pringle to another. What they didn’t know was that Spence had been playing with the feedback in their headphones, raising or lowering the volume of their noisy crunching [PDF]. At loud volumes, the chips were reported to be fresher; chips ingested while listening at low volume were thought to have been sitting out longer and seemed softer. The duplicitous sounds resulted in a radical difference in chip perception. It may have been a small study, but in the virtually non-existent field of sonic chip research, it was groundbreaking.

A view inside a potato chip bag
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For Spence, the results speak to what he considers the inherent appeal of crunchy foods. “Noisy foods correlate with freshness,” he says. “The fresher the produce, like apples, celery, or lettuce, the more vitamins and nutrients it’s retained. It’s telling us what’s in the food.”

Naturally, this signal becomes slightly misguided when it reinforces the quality of a potato chip, a processed slab of empty calories. But Spence has a theory on this, too: “The brain likes fat in food, but it’s not so good at detecting it through our mouths. Noisy foods are certainly fattier on average.”

Fatty or fresh, raising decibels while eating may also have roots in less appetizing behaviors. For our ancestors who ate insects, the crunch of a hard-bodied cricket symbolized nourishment. In a primal way, violently mincing food with our teeth could also be a way to vent and dilute aggression. “There are some psychoanalytic theories related to crunchiness and aggressive behavior,” Hirsch says. “When you bite into ice or potato chips, you’re sublimating that in a healthy way.”

 
 

All of these factors explain why crunch appeals to us. But is it actually affecting what we taste?

Yes—but maybe not the way you’d think. “Sound affects the experience of food,” Spence says. “The noise draws attention to the mouth in the way something silent does not. If you’re eating pâté, your attention can drift elsewhere, to a television or to a dining companion. But a crunch will draw your attention to what you’re eating, making you concentrate on it. Noisy foods make you think about them.”

That crunch can also influence how much food we consume. Because noisy foods tend to be fatty, Spence says, they’ll retain their flavor longer. And because the noise reinforces our idea of what we’re eating, it affords us a sense of security that allows us to keep consuming without having to look at our snack—not so important in a brightly-lit room, but crucial if we’re in a dark movie theater. “It becomes more important when you can’t see what you’re eating,” Spence says.

Thanks to this hard-wired feedback, the snack industry has made it a priority to emphasize the sounds of their foods in both development and marketing. In the 1980s, Frito-Lay funded extensive work at a Dallas plant that involved $40,000 chewing simulators. There, they discovered the ideal breaking point for a chip was four pounds per square inch (PSI), just a fraction of what we might need to tear into a steak (150 to 200 PSI). The quality and consistency of the potatoes themselves is also key, according to Herbert Stone, Ph.D., a food scientist who has worked with companies on product development. “Too thick, too hard, and people don’t like them,” Stone tells Mental Floss. “Too thin and they just crumble.”

The right potato sliced at the right thickness with the right oil at the right temperature results in a solid chip—one resilient enough to make for a satisfying break when it hits your molars, but vanishing so quickly that your brain and body haven’t even processed the calories you’ve just taken in. “If they pick it up and put it in the mouth and the crunch is not what they expect, they might put it down,” Stone says. “It’s about expectation.”

A shopper examines a bag of potato chips
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Walk down the snack aisle in your local supermarket or glance at commercials and you’ll find no shortage of claims about products being the boldest, crunchiest chip available. For years, Frito-Lay marketed Cheetos as “the cheese that goes crunch!” Even cereals try to capitalize on the fervor, making mascots—Snap, Crackle, and Pop—out of the sound their Rice Krispies make when submerged in milk. One ad for a brand of crisps drew attention for “cracking” the viewer’s television screen.

For most consumers, the promise of sonic flavor will draw their attention. But for a small number of people diagnosed with a condition dubbed misophonia, the sound of a co-worker or partner crunching on chips isn’t at all pleasurable. It’s insufferable.

 
 

According to Connecticut audiologist Natan Bauman, M.D., the average noise level of someone masticating a potato chip is between 25 to 35 decibels. (Other sources peg it as closer to 63 dB when you're chewing on a chip with your mouth open, or 55 dB with your lips closed.) When you hear your own chewing, the sound is being conducted both via the air and your own bones, giving it a distinctively unique sound. (Like talking, hearing yourself chewing on a recording might be troubling.)

For someone suffering from misophonia, or the literal hatred of specific sounds, it's not their own chomping that's the problem. It's everyone else's.

When we chew, Bauman says, the auditory cortical and limbic system areas of our brain are lighting up, getting information about freshness and texture. But people with misophonia aren’t struggling with their own sounds. Instead, they're affected by others typing, clicking pens, or, more often, chewing. The sound of someone snacking is routed from the cochlea, or cavity in the inner ear, and becomes an electric signal that winds up in the brain’s amygdala, which processes fear and pleasure. That's true for everyone, but in misophonics, it lands with a thud. They’ve likely developed a trigger, or negative association, with the sounds stemming from an incident in childhood.

“If you are scolded by a parent and they happen to be eating, or smacking, it becomes negative reinforcement,” Bauman says. Chewing, lip smacking, and even breathing become intolerable for sufferers, who often feel agitated and nervous, with corresponding increases in heart rate. Some fly into a rage.

Misophonics don’t necessarily recoil at all of these sounds all of the time: It may depend on who’s doing the snacking. Often, it’s a co-worker, spouse, or family member munching away that prompts a response. Fearing they’ll damage that relationship, sufferers tend to vent online. The misophonia subreddit is home to threads with titles like “And the popcorn eater sits RIGHT next to me on the plane” and “Chips can go f-ck themselves.” (The entire content of the latter: “F-ck chips, man. That is all.”)

Bauman says misophonia can be treated using cognitive therapy. An earpiece can provide white noise to reduce trigger sounds while sufferers try to retrain their brain to tolerate the noises. But even the sight of a bag of chips can be enough to send them scrambling.

People with misophonia might also want to exercise caution when traveling. Although some Asian cultures minimize crunchy snacks because loud snacking is considered impolite, other parts of the world can produce noisier mealtimes. “In parts of Asia, you show appreciation for food by slurping,” Spence says. Slurping is even associated with a more intense flavor experience, particularly when it’s in the setting of a comparatively quiet dining establishment.

Western culture favors noisier restaurants, and there’s a good reason for that. Supposedly Hard Rock Café has mastered the art of playing loud and fast music, resulting in patrons who talked less, ate faster, and left more quickly, allowing operators to turn over tables more times in an evening.

Spence believes sound will continue to be important to gastronomy, to chefs, and to food companies looking to sell consumers on a complete experience. Snack shelves are now full of air-puffed offerings like 3-D Doritos and Pop Chips that create pillows of taste. With less volume, you’ll snack more and crunch for longer periods.

A woman snacks on a chip
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But the sound of the chip is just one part of the equation. The way a bag feels when you pick it up at the store, the aroma that wafts out when you first open the bag, the concentration of flavor from the granules of seasoning on your fingers—it’s all very carefully conducted to appeal to our preferences.

“When we hear the rattle of crisps, it may encourage people to start salivating, like Pavlov’s dogs,” Spence says, referring to the Russian scientist who trained his canines to salivate when he made a certain sound. We’re conditioned to anticipate the flavor and enjoyment of chips as soon as we pick up a package. Even hearing or saying the words crispy and crunchy can prime us for the experience.

When we’re deprived of that auditory cue, we can get annoyed. After news reports emerged that Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi had mentioned her company might consider a quieter version of Doritos for women—an idea PepsiCo later denied they would label in a gender-specific fashion—women Doritos enthusiasts rallied around the Texas state capitol, condemning the perceived gender discrimination. To protest the possible dilution of their favorite snack, they made a spectacle of crunching Doritos as loudly as they could.

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London Grocery Chain Encourages Shoppers to Bring Their Own Tupperware
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Why stop at bringing your own grocery bags to the store? One London grocery wants you to BYO-Tupperware. The London Evening Standard reports that a UK chain called Planet Organic has partnered with Unpackaged—a company dedicated to sustainable packaging—to install self-serve bulk-food dispensers where customers can fill their own reusable containers with dry goods, cutting down on plastic packaging waste.

To use the system, customers walk up and weigh their empty container at a self-serve station, printing and attaching a label with its tare weight. Then, they can fill it with flour, nuts, or other kinds of dry goods, weigh it again, and print the price tag before taking it up to the check out. (Regular customers only have to weigh their containers once, since they can save the peel-off label to use again next time.)

Planet Organic is offering cereals, legumes, grains, nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, and even some cleaning products in bulk as part of this program, significantly reducing the amount of waste shoppers would otherwise be taking home on each grocery trip.

Zero-waste grocery stores have been popping up in Europe for several years. These shops, like Berlin's Original Unverpackt, don't offer any bags or containers, asking customers bring their own instead. This strategy also encourages people to buy only what they need, which eliminates food waste—there's no need to buy a full 5-pound bag of flour if you only want to make one cake.

The concept is also gaining traction in North America. The no-packaging grocery store in.gredients opened in Austin, Texas in 2011. The Brooklyn store Package Free, opened in 2017, takes the idea even further, marketing itself as a one-stop shop for "everything that you'd need to transition to a low waste lifestyle." It sells everything from tote bags to laundry detergent to dental floss.

[h/t London Evening Standard]

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