Friday, January 25, 2013

The Pleasure of Eating: 5, Hearing.

Yesterday we looked at the rather obvious importance of the sense of taste in the pleasure of eating, as opined by the author of Dining and its Amenities, by a Lover of Good Cheer (New York, 1907.)  Today we look at perhaps the least considered sense involved in our eating pleasure – that of hearing. Most of us at some time or other have been in the unpleasant situation of being seated near a noisy chewer and chomper, so may not immediately consider the potential for the positive enhancement of the eating experience by the sense of hearing.

I give you our author of the day’s words on the ‘auditive sense’ in relation to eating.  Although I doubt very much the veracity of his scientific explanation, I am most intrigued by his opinion of the effects of the act of chewing on the appreciation of music!  


'Since the cooperative influence of the tactile and olfactive senses upon gustation have been shown in the foregoing notes, it remains to be told how audition contributes to the sense of taste and to the pleasure of eating.

The auditive sense of diners is always attentive to the pleasing click of the knives and forks, is ever charmed by the musical gurgle of the beverages as they emerge from their slender-necked receptacles, and is enraptured by the mellifluous tones of the congenial guests. In former times, during drinking bouts, the gurgling of decanting wine or the bursting of the foaming bubbles of ale not being as audible as the soldier liked, he contrived, to better satisfy audition, the clinking of the drinking vessels; and the ceremony is still observed. lago's song tells of that custom which was very old even in the Elizabethan era.

"And let me the canakin dink, clink;
And let me the canakin clink:
A soldier's a man;
A life's but a span;
Why then, let a soldier drink."

It is believed that good music, during a banquet, by its pleasing effect on the auditive sense, reflexively stimulates appetite and promotes conviviality. It was, probably, this notion that impelled the great among ancient civilised nations to keep their flute-players and other musicians, and even dancers, in constant action during convivial reunions; thus gratifying the senses of gustation and vision while catering for audition. Music seems to do more thancharm the gourmet's audition since they believe that certain sounds, affecting the nerve which goes to the salivary glands, excite an increased flow of saliva so very indispensable to gustation. Here then the incident musical sounds serve to heighten the gratification of the gustative as well as the auditive sense, and offer a sufficient reason why, even in these modern times, musicians are so often kept in action during the period of deliberate degustation and thus check conversation which is so fatal to the full enjoyment of delicate aliments. Besides their natural fondness for music and on account of its good effect on gustation the majority of gourmets have another reason to desire its introduction at banquets, for they know that the act of mastication, by causing tension of the ear-drum, permits a greater appreciation of certain notes.
Remotely related to the gustative sense is the quick perception, ready specialisation, and exquisite enjoyment of delicate, varied, and harmonious musical sounds, which together have been designated the savor of sounds; and those endowed with this rare auditory faculty of thus savoring sweet sounds, are said to possess practically an additional sense. The true gourmet is ever as busy cultivating his senses as the athlete his muscles. 


The author ends his brief dissertation on the role of the senses in the pleasure of eating with these words: 


The last, the most brilliant of all the services at a grand feast, is ushered in with its luscious dainties, sweet ices, fragrant fruits, delicate cheeses, and foaming wines, to crown with glory the sensual delight of eating and herald the intellectual pleasure of the table stimulated and intensified by the slow imbibition of wee cupfuls of sable mocha infusion, by the sipping of the nectarean cordials from tiny crystal vessels, and by the leisurely inhalation of delectable nicotian vapors.

There is not a more beautiful illustration of the Creator's infinite wisdom than his endowment of man, for his preservation and happiness, with these wonderfully correlated and coordinated senses!


And as the recipe for the day, what better than a crunchy, crackly, noisy peanut brittle?

Peanut Brittle.
Shell, skin and chop fine one quart of peanuts or enough to make one cup of nutmeats. Place one cup of sugar in a saucepan without water, and heat gradually, stirring all the time, until the sugar is completely melted. Mix the peanuts in thoroughly, pour out on an inverted tine, unbuttered, then shape into a square with two broad knives. When the candy begins to hold its shape, mark it in small squares and continue to shape it and re-mark it until it hardens. Set it to cool.
Greenfield Gazette and Courier, December 16, 1905

No comments: