This week I want to share with you the insights and theories of the role of the senses in the pleasure of eating, from the author of Dining and its Amenities, by a Lover of Good Cheer (New York, 1907.) Five senses to cover over five weekday posts works well for us. We will consider one of the senses each day, but first, the author’s introductory words:
"The Creator, in compelling man to eat that he may live, invites him through appetite and rewards him by pleasure."
Such is one of the sublime aphorisms of the great deipnosophist who regaled his readers with the vast abundance of gastronomic lore that has prompted the present statement of some of the features of the correlative influence of the senses on the pleasure of eating so admirably traced by the greatest of seers in these lines-
The five best senses
Acknowledge thee their patron; and come freely
To gratulate thy plenteous bosom; th' ear
Taste, touch and smell, pleased, from thy table rise;
They only now come but to feast thine eye.
True it is that nearly all animated beings are endowed with special senses, but to man alone is granted the faculty of cultivating them in a very high degree for bodily nourishment and mental enrichment as well as for other purposes. Forced by hunger to eat for his sustenance, he labored diligently in seeking the necessary aliments which, originally, he had found through the aid of certain lower creatures whose movements he had cunningly espied. The first sense he naturally exercised was that of sight; the second, touch, when with his hand he seized an edible substance and carried it toward a third sense organ which gave him its odor, then greedily thrust it into his mouth to awaken the gustative sense; the clattering of his teeth pleasantly rousing the auditive sense.
Thus were the five senses gratified whilst hunger was satisfied; appetite, that is to say, the desire to eat tasty food because so agreeable, being the outcome of that primitive experience.
It is the high cultivation of the senses that has been to man of such powerful aid in his struggle for existence and that has given him such supremacy over other animated beings. Those whose sense organs are abnormal, whose perceptions are naturally dull or accidentally obtunded, or whose mental faculties are untutored, have little if any real pleasure in eating. Hunger and thirst they feel and brutally appease, but have no true appreciation of, or appetite for, dainty food or for its use in moderation; whilst those of cultured mind and sound body, in the enjoyment of delicacies, bring into play all their senses to enhance the pleasure of eating. This is summed in
the aphorism: ''The beasts feed, man eats, the wise man alone knows how to eat."
…. The activity and interdependence of the senses are singularly well illustrated by the different pleasing sensations enjoyed during a feast given by an experienced amphitryon.
And now, the first of the senses to be discussed by the author - the role of vision in the eating experience:
The visual sense is the first to be gratified. The moment the guests enter the refectory, their sight is gladdened by the brilliantly lighted and richly ornamented table, the floral decorations on the snow-white cloth, the bright metallic implements, the crystalline drinking vessels, the good taste displayed in all the appurtenances of the well-ordered festal hall, and the congenial company. A new delightful visual impression then comes with each service, throughout the repast, to heighten the pleasure of eating. The form and coloring of each platter, the artistic disposition of its contents, and the beauty of the plate on which dainty bits are served, all gratify vision and addto the pleasure felt in the deliberate degustation of the savory meats. The view through clear crystal of the amber hued mellow Xerés, of the rich Burgundy suggestive of liquid garnet, of the ruby of Bordeaux, of the topaz tinted Chateau Yquem, and of the myriad pearly beads ever rising to crown with foam a cup of the sparkling nectar of Aii, may well be counted among the many visual delights of such beatic revellers.
As our recipe for the day, a visually pleasing pink champagne jelly:
Pink Champagne Jelly.
Beat half the white of an egg to a stiff froth, and then stir it hard into three wineglasses of filtered water. Put twelve ounces of the best double-refined loaf-sugar (powdered fine and sifted) into a skillet lined with porcelain. Pour on it the white of egg and water, and stir it till dissolved. Then add twelve grains of cochineal powder. Set it over a moderate fire, aiid boil it and skim it till the scum ceases to rise. Then strain it through a very fine sieve. Have ready an ounce and a half of isinglass that has been boiled in a little water till quite dissolved. Strain it, and while the boiled sugar is lukewarm mix it with the isinglass, adding a pint of pink champagne and the juice of a large lemon. Run it through a linen bag into a mould. When it has congealed so as to be quite firm, wrap a wet cloth round the outside of the mould, and turn out the jelly into a glass dish; or serve it broken up, in jelly glasses, or glass cups.
Jelly may be made in a similar manner of Madeira, marasquin, or noyau.
Directions for cookery, in its various branches (1840) by Eliza Leslie.