How can senses other than taste contribute to a great meal? It’s a question that the folks over at the Cooking Architecture blog have been asking as they host dinner parties. But these aren’t your typical dinner parties, there are dinner parties in the dark, or dinner parties with tightly controlled acoustics so you can better hear yourself eating. I think I would get a little grossed out hearing myself chew that much, even though I would be fascinated to hear the foodstuffs moving through my stomach and into my intestines. To help dampen the sound around the table for their dinner party, architects Claire and Juan covered the ceiling of their dining room with thousands of styrofoam cups (hence the image of a Tara Donovan installation made with styrofoam cups) and they passed out earplugs to their guests.
I think what their experiments with sensory restriction are really about is creating an immediacy with food. But it doesn’t work for all the senses: restricting the sense of smell during a meal would probably make the food taste much more flat, and meals certainly wouldn’t be as enjoyable if all the food had the same texture. It wasn’t until I started reading about their parties that I realized how much the company of good friends enhances the whole experience of eating for me. I’ve been to great dinner parties that had almost nothing to do with the food, and sometimes were great in spite of the food. Still, the idea of a dinner party in the dark sounds like a good idea even if I’m not willing to turn my ceiling into a silent sea of styrofoam cups.