I have a good friend who has introduced me to an excellent tradition: whenever she travels somewhere, rather than buying a T-shirt, mug, ornament or some other dust-gathering tchotchke, she tries to buy a piece of original art that will always remind her of the place and/or the trip. As a result of this tradition she has amassed a really eclectic and interesting selection of art that reflects her taste and reminds her in very tangible way of the excellent travels she has undertaken. We haven’t often had the pleasure of going on one of these art shopping expeditions abroad together but when we have, it has been clear that while we both have very definite tastes in art, our tastes could not be further apart. She rolls her eyes at the “blandness” of my selections, while I feel vaguely unsettled by the riotous colours in hers. “Why do you buy everything in beige?” another friend asks me. “For somebody who always wears bright colours, your house sure looks… bland.” But I look at her pistachio green sofa, which looks fabulous in her house, and am silently thankful for my huge, neutral, oatmeal coloured sofa.
Have you ever wondered what attracts you to certain colours and why you avoid others? With clothes, the question is a little different because some colours will suit your skin colour better than others and we tend to gravitate towards the colours that make us look good. But why is it that I can walk past the entire rainbow selection of scatter cushions at Dunelm without a backward glance… and then my eyes alight on the deep teal velvet cushion with the peacock feather… or the sparkly aquamarine cushion… and like a magpie with a shiny bauble, I am instantly smitten? Or why, out of an entire cabinet of a hundred of scarves in a shop, the one in these photos leapt out at me immediately one day in 2018 and I bought it to use the colours as the basis of decorating my new lounge? It turns out that I am not the first person to ponder this – over two thousand years ago, the Greeks, Egyptians and Chinese all dabbled with the idea of using colours for their healing properties. But in the intervening millennia, the study of colour psychology has remained a relatively unexplored field.
At its most basic, colour is electromagnetic energy in the form of light. The light from the sun is made up of various wavelengths, depending on how the electrons move, and each of these wavelengths is perceived by our eyes as a different colour. You can see this in practice by using a prism or crystal to split the white light into its component wavelengths: the colours of the rainbow. The visible spectrum of light has wavelengths that fall in the 400 to 700 nanometre range. These colours are visible to us because different objects absorb or reflect wavelengths of light in different ways – so for example a lemon is seen as yellow because if absorbs all the wavelengths of visible light except the yellow ones, which it reflects back into the human eye. But there are also non-visible types of light associated with other wavelengths such as x-rays (extremely short wavelengths of less than 10 nanometres) or ultraviolet rays (100-400 nanometres). It is undeniable that non-visible light affects the human body (e.g. sunburn from ultraviolet light, or radiation sickness from X-rays), so it makes sense that visible light would also affect us.
The absence of light has been proven to affect the human psyche – seasonal affective disorder is a mild form of depression linked to the decrease in sunlight as winter approaches. But there is also research that has shown that specific colours can have psychological and physiological effects on people: certain colors have been associated with increased blood pressure, increased metabolism, decreased appetite and more. Here are a few examples:
- a 2019 research study found that short term exposure to red light increases excitement and blood pressure, while exposure to blue light decreases excitement and blood pressure.
- exposure to the colour red also raises your heart rate and increases the appetite, which is why red is such a popular colour in restaurants.
- As well as lowering your pulse rate and inducing feelings of calm, research has shown that people are more productive in blue rooms.
- The colour blue is a natural appetite suppressant (it is sometimes suggested that to lose weight, you should eat food off a blue plate. This is thought to be because blue rarely occurs naturally in food aside from blueberries, so humans are programmed to avoid foods that are blue and potentially spoiled or poisonous.
- Studies have shown that babies cry more often and couples tend to argue more often in rooms with yellow paint.
- warm-coloured placebo pills were reported as more effective than cool-coloured placebo pills in one study.
- according to anecdotal evidence, blue-coloured streetlights can lead to reduced street crime.
You may or may not take that all with a pinch of salt, but it is undeniable that people are attracted to and their moods are influenced by colours in unique and individual ways – how else do you explain the glorious proliferation of teal and aqua items in my home? 😉 It is also hard to deny that a colourful bowl of food will immediately attract our attention, more so than a bowl of brown food, however tasty. The pretty colours in this dish are definitely what first persuaded me to make it, but it is the delicious balance of textures and flavours that has made it a new standby in my house. I have always been a sucker for Brussels sprouts and I’m mystified by people who can’t stand them so I am always on the lookout for new ways to serve them. Here, the nutty flavours of the sprouts are accentuated by roasting them with olive oil and then adding saltiness (the feta), sweetness (the pomegranate arils) and crunch (the pine nuts). And if that isn’t a mood-enhancing combination, I don’t know what is!
This easy side dish combines the nuttiness of roasted sprouts with salty feta, sweet pomegranates and crunchy pine nuts - and it's so pretty!
- 500 g Brussels sprouts, trimmed
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp pine nuts
- 75 g pomegranate arils
- 75 g feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp honey
- salt and black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Cut each sprout in half vertically and toss well in the olive oil to coat.
Arrange the sprouts cut side down on a baking sheet - don't worry if some outer leaves have come loose. Leave them on the sheet to crisp up. Roast for 15-20 mins or until the outer leaves are starting to turn golden and crispy. Check on them once and rotate the baking sheet if they are browning unevenly.
In the meantime, heat a small non-stick frying pan and toast the pine nuts over medium heat until golden and fragrant - keep a close eye on them as they burn easily! Set aside when done.
When the sprouts are done, toss them in a large bowl together with the pomegranate arils and crumbled feta to combine (reserve a couple of spoonfuls of each to sprinkle on top).
Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Transfer the sprouts to a serving dish, pour over the dressing and top with the pine nuts and reserved pomegranate and feta.
If you love this recipe, why not try…
- Easy cheesy Brussels sprout gratin
- Roasted Brussels sprouts with ginger and sesame
- Roasted Brussels sprouts with chorizo & hazelnuts
- Leftover gammon and Brussels sprout risotto
- Sautéed Brussels sprouts with caramelised garlic, lemon and chilli
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