As a birthday present I surprised my husband with a “Dinner in the dark” at the A Guddesch in Beringen/Mersch.
Many years ago when I was a student in Paris I had heard about these dinners where you are served by actual blind people in the dark. I was always curious about the experience but never went for it. So when I discovered this dinner here in Luxembourg, I signed us both up for it. When making the reservations I asked if a vegetarian option was possible and they said no problem, even asking if we had any food allergies or intolerances.
We got there by 7 pm for the aperitif (well sparkling water for the pregnant lady). We were a group of 10 people. Having been to this place before and knowing the setting a bit, my husband and I were wondering where the dinner would take place and how we would be seated. At about 7:40 pm, our waiter for the evening explained the “rules”. He would guide us into the room couple by couple. He would be wearing special binoculars so he could actually see in the dark. He explained that there were going to be 4 courses: appetizers, starters, mains and dessert. For every course there would be 4 small jars (“verrines”). We should each start with the outer right one and then move towards the left. Everyone would have 4 glasses in front of them for wine (juice for me) and water to go with each course. There would also be bread to neutralise the taste buds between jars and courses. The aim of the dinner was not just to eat but to actually discover the flavours and find out by ourselves what we were savouring.
My husband and I went in first. He put one hand on the waiter’s shoulder and I put mine on my husbands shoulder. We walked through a dark part of the kitchen with some light and then into the darkened room. It was pitch black. I had no idea where I was and what was in front of or around me. The waiter described where we were and guided us to sit down. I was seated to the right side of my husband. Whilst the other couples got seated we tried to “feel” what was in front of us: a napkin, 2 small forks and 2 small spoons, the 4 glasses that were already filled, the bread basket (which my husband attacked so I never got to have any, I think he didn’t grasp the idea that the bread was to neutralise the taste buds, never mind, I had water for that instead). I also found out that I was at the end of the table so with no one to my right side.
The dinner then started, the waiter brought in course after course, leaving us plenty of time to savour the food. I am unable to recall all I ate, the portions were small but with 4 jars for each course, it was quite a lot. After each course the waiter would come in and ask us to tell him what we had tasted jar by jar. He would sometimes say “oh that’s interesting” which basically meant that we had gotten it all totally wrong. Some people were really good at this, for some foods it was easier, some had tastes that I did not know at all,…
What I can say about this experience is that it was so hard for me to find out and distinguish the various flavours. I tried to eat really slowly and to really let the food melt on my tongue. I would smell the food first for a hint and then only taste it. But boy, did I suck at this. No, I mean, really!! I consider myself someone who a) cooks with fresh ingredients almost exclusively (no conservatives or chemical taste enhancers for this one) b) uses a lot of fresh spices and c) is open to try new healthy options, trying veggies and spices that are unfamiliar on a regular basis.
But unless I see what I am eating and have a name for the ingredient (written on it or where I buy it or given to me by someone), I am oftentimes unable to say what I am having. How bad is that?
Because I see everything, it seems that my sense of tasting is underdeveloped or even lazy. I mean why bother, I like the taste, isn’t that enough?
Also I have a feeling that oftentimes in day to day life I eat in a hurry and don’t really take the time to taste my food. So all I can say is if I liked the food or not but I couldn’t really tell what the exact components of the meal were (had I not seen them written somewhere or put them in there myself). My embarrassing moment of the evening was when I said that a soup tasted like cheese and what it really was was chestnut cream…
It was also funny to discover how influenced I felt by what the others were saying. Like someone would say “I taste pumpkin and ginger” and I’d be like hmm, yes could be pumpkin and ginger, without really knowing if that was right.
For me this was again great proof of the importance of taking my time to stop, linger and enjoy rather than rushing to the next thing. You know, just being in the moment, just staying and seeing what it feels or in this case tastes like. Being really conscious and mindful.
How often do I really enjoy my meal? Often I am thinking that it took me a not so small amount of time to prepare and then all the food seems to be gone in no time. That is not very enjoyable plus it makes me wonder why I even make the effort of preparing something in the first place. And it doesn’t make the cooking a conscious act, something that I give my full attention and awareness. Just another task on my to do list, something to get over with. Which is a bit “meh” really given how much I actually like cooking and learning new stuff in the kitchen.
So my task now is to smell, taste and savour more. To slow down not only when I am eating but also when I am cooking to see my little project for a meal evolve. To put my undivided attention to it. So that my senses awaken and relish. And… so that I can do better at the next dinner in the dark. 🙂
In case you are interested in the “Dinner in the dark”, go to www.gudd.lu. They also offer great cooking classes. And everyone there is so lovely.