The five senses—they are ever-present, enhancing our lives, and delighting our imagination. But we don’t always pay attention to what they are telling us. In the discussion during the first Dinner in the Dark, my brother said “It’s surprising how your experience of something can be enhanced by losing a sense that you thought made that experience better. But in the end, not having it can make it better.”
For this Soundscape dinner, we installed about 2000 styrofoam cups on the ceiling of our dining room, trying to dampen the harsh echoes of past meals. We curated a playlist (take a listen here!) that would not detract from the food, but would enhance the listening experience. But most importantly, we crafted the menu to provide a range of sounds and textures.
Soundscape MenuWasabi peas and peanuts, carrots, grapes, snow peas, and cheese crisps by Catherine! Mixed green salad with grapefruit and crunchy avocado with yogurt dressing Mushroom and Aspargus risotto with white wine mussels Meringues with Pears, Chocolate, and Hazelnuts (recipe below)
We provided earplugs at the table so that you could choose when to remove your hearing. People chose to listen in to certain conversations by using only one earplug or entire sections of the table going quiet. Others were concerned about the social norms engaging with people at a meal. By putting in the earplugs, you could listen to yourself eat. While isolating yourself, each food made its own unique noise—sometimes enhancing the texture, sometimes detracting. The mussels sounded like they were exploding; while the risotto was compared to listening to someone eat a banana.
The guests suggested that the meal should include more rules and structured events so that everyone could experience the full range of the soundscape meal. So we will continue to push ourselves to create more experiential, ritual meals that aren’t your everyday dinner party. Next week, another winter meal, the last meal of our three part series and our last of 2012!
Meringues with Pear, Chocolate, and Hazelnuts
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
Coming from a person that isn’t great at following recipe instructions, please follow these carefully! This recipe is really easy to make ahead and then assemble right before dessert. Jamie Oliver’s book Cook with Jamie has a great section specifically on meringues. Need a good holiday present for the cook in your life? This book is a winner.
Click here to read the rest of the recipe.