Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Pleasure of Eating: 2, Touch.

On Day 2 of our exploration of the role of the senses in the pleasure of eating, as explained in Dining and its Amenities, by a Lover of Good Cheer (New York, 1907) it is the turn of the tactile sense. Here are our author’s words on the subject:
'The tactile sense, so indispensable to all animated creatures, never fails to take cognisance, in the mouth, of the pungency, consistence and temperature of ingested aliments. Manual touch, too, is especially gratified by the smoothness of those shapely modern implements for cutting and those for breaking up the food and for conveying it to the mouth where its consistency is more exactly determined by the action of the tongue and teeth. The exquisite tactile sense of the lips and tongue's tip is either supremely gratified or painfully roused when the fork, spoon, or food touches these guardians of the mouth which are ever ready to give warning of the too high or too
low temperature of liquids or solids. The thermic sensibility of the tongue and mouth was once shockingly realised in the case of the voracious Doctor Samuel Johnson at dinner in good company. Feeding and talking at the same time with little intermission, he crammed in greedily a large scalding mouthful of food which he forthwith disgorged in his plate, saying to a fair neighbor: ''a fool would have swallowed that."

Certain aliments are enjoyed only when very warm and seasoned with pungent condiments. Tepid or cool they give no pleasing sensation. Vegetables are the more succulent and tasty when served very hot, notably the mushroom whose aroma thus heightened gives almost as much pleasure as its savor. The perfume of the truffle is always delightful even in cold pasties, but is completely developed only by heat. Coffee infusion is most agreeable to smell and taste when served at very near the boiling point. Such aliments as raw mollusks are enjoyable only when very cold. The crispness of some of the cold hors-d'oeuvres, so grateful to the dental tactile sense, is due in great part to the low temperature at which they are served. Crisp crusts also give a very pleasing sensation to the teeth. Some red wines, as the Burgundies, those of the Rhone and Gironde, and the heavy vintages of Spain, require a moderate degree of heat to develop their full aroma, whilst the light white wines as well as those of Xeré and Malaga must be cool to be pleasing to the tactile and gustative senses. All sparkling wines need to be very cold. Some northerly gourmets who are fond of very sweet sparkling wines prefer them cooled down to a fraction of a degree above the freezing point.'

As the recipe for the day, I give you a delightfully tactile, sticky, juicy orange dish.

A Pretty Dish of Oranges Croquante.
Take ten or a dozen oranges, remove the peel, all the white part and the seeds. Do this carefully by quartering them, retaining the transparent pulp and juice. Do not break the skins of the sections. Boil a pound of loaf sugar in half a glass of water until the syrup strings when lifted on a fork, then take it from the fire and dip each section of orange in this candy while it is hot; you can do this by placing each one on a little stick cut for the purpose. As the pieces are dipped, arrange them in some pretty form on a dish or bowl, and fill up the hollow with whipped cream, sweetened and seasoned with a glass of maraschino.
La Cuisine Creole (New Orleans, c1895), by Lafcadio Hearn.


Elise Fleming/Alys K. said...

I wonder how one can remove the seeds without breaking the skin of the sections...

The Old Foodie said...

Good point, Elise/Alys. I didnt pick up on that. It would be impossible without making a small slit at least in the skin of the segments. And the recipe does not specify seedless oranges (were there any such varieties then, I wonder?)

Elise Fleming/Alys K. said...

As to varieties then, the Internet indicates that the mutant variety of orange was brought from Brazil to the US with some oranges grown in Florida in the 1850s. By the 1860s, California had started growing them. Propagation methods seem to be a bit tricky, so I doubt than many readers of that book would have even known about seedless varieties.

The Old Foodie said...

The recipe does actually specify that the seeds are to be removed, so presumes a seedy variety. Very strange.