Friday, February 07, 2020

101 Things #58 - Dining in the Dark

I enjoy eating out, particularly in the company of Mrs C. And, as part of the experience, I like to look around at the dishes others have chosen, or to watch passers-by. If there is a pleasant view of a riverfront or over a mountain landscape so much the better. Above all I like to look at my food before I eat it. In top-end places this is a pleasure in itself, in others it is a more of a sensible precaution. This should be enough to explain why I regard the proposal of Bucket List Journey to

Eat in a pitch black restaurant

as suitable to include in my ever-growing dossier of avoidables known in these parts as 101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die.

With some of these pieces I work entirely from the bucket list idea and do no research, allowing pure thought to shape my words. I am sure that Plato and Socrates would approve*. In this case I found my thoughts stuck in a loop, for if the restaurant is indeed without any form of light, then how on earth could anyone safely convey food from the kitchen to the diners? A little light Googling seemed to be in order and rapidly I found help from The Takeout. These good people had eaten at a leading blacked-out joint, in Paris no less, and the account is worth reading.

I learned that the waiting staff are themselves blind or visually handicapped so moving about is relatively straightforward for them, that there is no choice of what you eat, cutting out the obvious problem of how you read a menu, and that guests make their way into the dining area with each laying a hand on the shoulder of the person in front. Whether that means an entire conga snakes its way into the kitchens or the loos en route to a distant table is not clear.

All this is meant to enhance the sensations of smell and taste and thus to increase one's enjoyment of the meal. Our friends at The Takeout managed to knock over glasses, which would definitely detract from my enjoyment (I don't know about you) and of course had no idea exactly what they were putting in their mouths. It might have been the napkin:
"Delightfully chewy, this thickly textured escalope but perhaps a little more sauce?".

        Do you prefer to see this?                Or this?
Pic: Mine, taken at L'Epicier, Avignon
Pic: I made it. Dead easy. Just black

I have no idea how you can be sure you are not dropping tomato sauce on your shirt, eating from your plate or that of your neighbour, and how many times you will pick up and spit out the same bit of gristle before chucking it over your shoulder safe in the knowledge that you will get away with it. I am not keen on having no choice at all in what I eat and what on earth do you do if you need to attract the waiter's attention - stand up and yell "Over here mate"?

In any case the concept behind the pitch black restaurant is way too tame to be out there at the cutting edge of sensory enhancements. Surely what we need is a black and silent dining room, one where not only is there no light but all the waiters are deaf and guests wear noise-cancelling headphones. This would not only remove the irritations of hearing your companions chomping on celery and the conversation at the next table about how simply awfully Nora is behaving, but would force the diner to hear the sound of his own mastications in a sort of private concert. The waiters would communicate by tapping you on the head - one tap to announce the arrival of food, two for you to move aside so they can clear the table and three for when the hell are you going to leave, there's people waiting outside, you know. To keep it simple there would be just one course, gruel, served lukewarm, with unidentifiable lumps in. In this way guests can concentrate on the sheer excellence of the concept without any of the ridiculous distractions of seeing your food, being able to talk about it, or tasting it.

I have no intention of paying to eat food I cannot see, and certainly not of doing so whilst being deprived of hearing as well, but I don't mind reading about others undergoing the experience. We need laughs in these dark days.


*No, I don't mean the centre backs for the Brazilian football team. Those Greek blokes.

No comments:

Post a Comment