Savory Sounds of Gustatory Delight
Jamie Vincent Bordonaro
As I sit outside soaking up the first sunlight of Spring, I quickly rejoice over the notable melody of birds chirping that serves as one of the strongest symbols of the seasonal shift. As nature and food are permanently symbiotic forces, the powerful effect created by internal and environmental noise permeates their resulting levels of intensity. Recognizing the scope of the directly audible ingredient- based expression of sound to enhance the eating experience provides valuable insight into this investigation. Examination of sound deriving from external environmental stimuli also unlocks a broader appreciation for the intricacy of the dining experience.
The intrinsic reverberation of sounds from various foods that indicate certain textural states of being immediately alerts and entices our auditory sensory network. Social media clips calling for “sound on” instruction, heroically showcase chefs slicing through their crispy, crunchy deep- fried masterpieces. The amplified sound effects demonstrate a mastery of technique, induce audience salivation, and market a likely juicy interior of the item within the crust. The snap of a freshly grilled hot dog or Italian sausage prepares the diner for an expected moist and succulent meaty interior. Rapid stir fry action in a wok seeks to yield a “percussion of produce” on the palate once a guest crunches into the lightly cooked vegetable medley. The proper treatment of the ingredients guarantees their optimal flavor and nutrition. Popular family establishments pride themselves on marketing their tableside fajita entrees as they arrive with the ferocious sound of sizzling and bubbling juices in the scorching hot cast iron pan. The curiosity and intrigue created from the sounds spark a chain reaction of restaurant patron orders for the tactical treat. Clearly sound is instrumental in the enhancement of the dining experience.
In Defense of Molecular Gastronomy
Many instances of the influence of sound on cuisine can be observed as outcomes of techniques from the molecular gastronomy classification. Take an alginate capsule for instance. Combine a base flavorful liquid with Calcium Chloride, drop into a bath of sodium alginate, and retrieve the resultant capsule into a resting pool of olive oil. The delicate membrane created around the liquid solution maintains its spherical structure until penetrated by teeth and tongue. The primary “pop” from the membrane gives way to an explosion of flavorful liquid directly into the patron’s mouth. On the sweeter side of the spectrum, pipe a mound of white chocolate mousse into a bowl of liquid nitrogen and observe the creation of an external shell of frozen mousse. Use a spoon at the table to “crack” through the shell, yielding a creamy mousse interior eliciting bewilderment and exuberance from the guests.
Observation of the external environmental stimuli surrounding the dining experience can be blatantly obvious at times or leave us oblivious to their existence. The sound of waves crashing on the shoreline adjacent to our beachside eatery has the uncanny ability to make that seared scallop taste that much sweeter, offering a sort of seaside seasoning. Natural echoes of satisfaction from a diner—such as in the famous scene from, “When Harry Met Sally,” when Meg Ryan bellowed pleasurable utterances of approval in Katz’s Delicatessen. Raucous tableside reviews undoubtedly raise eyebrows and expectations for gustatory delight. Merely hearing a simple “mmm” creates an established preconceived notion towards enjoyment. The music playing in a restaurant instantly sets the mood for guests and can greatly affect the outcome of the experience. Walking into a gastropub and hearing classical music quietly gracing the atmosphere might elicit thoughts of conservative or even bland offerings from the menu. Whereas funk music in a contemporary restaurant can entice the clientele to be a bit adventurous in their selections.
Crunch, sizzle, pop, and snap are just some of the ostentatious instances of onomatopoeia that underscore the theatrical interplay of audible activity embedded in the dining experience. Whether originating from a neighboring table’s joyous proclamations, whistling wind breezing past an outdoor patio, or exaggerated sound effects from an attention span diminishing internet clip, the auditory effects that comprise the culinary experience add a noteworthy garnish to the plate.