Tactile Dinner
July 15, 2009, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Life

I finally went to the Tactile Dinner performance that I talked about last week. The Tactile Dinner is a play that is part of the Fringe Festival, a theater festival of experimental, postmodern, anything-goes performances. It was less of a “dinner” and more of a play with audience participation.

I won’t say anything the deep intellectual meaning of this experimental art project, but I can say that as an amateur cook the it raised my curiosity about experiencing food without eating it.

I’m a little torn between giving everything away and sharing the experience with people who can’t go. Eh. I don’t have a lot of readers, so option 2 wins. Read on for the details:

First, they told us that while there would be food, there would not be any drinks served. We had the option of buying Capri Sun (the juicboxes) or water that came in juiceboxe packaging. One is a retro throwback, the other a little futuristic. Here is a picture of my er, waterbox:


Next, they started handing out the “tactilist garb.” I wasn’t very happy about this at first because it was reeeeally hot outside and not very cool in the hallway where we were waiting, and the jackets were made out of Tyvek envelope material. Sweaty! The jackets’ sleeves were each covered in some textured material such as feathers, mesh netting or velvet. Here I am trying to show off my bubble wrap sleeves:

bubble wrap

You can see a guy wearing cork behind me. At one point during the meal, everyone was told to turn to their neighbors and feel up their sleeves.

Then the ushers seated everyone one by one, picking randomly. This means that I didn’t get to sit with the friends that I came with, so I had to make new friends.

There were two tv screens which broadcast the narrator, who gave us instructions on what/when/how to eat, plus one big screen in the back that rolled film. I couldn’t really see it because of where I was sitting. The waiters were the performers, and the stage was the entire room, so there was lots of twisting and turning around.

Course 1: “Polyrhythmic Salad. Lettuces with essences of grape dressed with musical rhythms and geometric gestures”

We were told to use one hand to eat the salad (no forks) at the same time using the other hand to crank the music box on the base. It was stressful because the voice kept yelling at us to EAT. CRANK. EAT. CRANK CRANK!  The bottom of the salad stand with the music box:


I like salad, but I am sorry to say that I couldn’t eat this one. I ate two leaves.

Course 2: Aural Sensations. No actual food, just watched the performers do some moves.

Course 3: Aerofood.
This was cool. Waiters wheeled out carts full of mylar balloons and asked each person if they wanted “meat” (silver balloon) or “vegetarian” (gold). Talking TV told us to take the clothespin off the balloon, give it a gentle squeeze, and inhale. The meat balloons smelled just like roast beef, while the vegetarian balloons was supposed to smell like mushrooms. I say “supposed to” because it was a pleasant earthy smell, like perfume someone would wear, whereas the other one smelled like actual food. My neighbors and I swapped so everyone got to smell both.

Course 4: Magic Food. “Mysterious, magically flavored balls served on specially-crafted tactile platters.”
The magic balls, we found out later, were made by some scientific process that creates sugar crystals wrapped around non-water-soluble flavor components. Some were salty, some were fruity but most of them tasted like dried out minty toothpaste. I was very glad I had the water.

Course 5: Visual Nutrients. No real food here either. More crazy moves from the performers.

Course 6: “Totalrice. Chilled arborio rice prepared with rice beer, rice wine, wrapped in rice paper. Garnished with a trio of powders: tomato, rosemary and parmesan.”
The rice paper was very papery. I thought it would be like the rice paper used for Vietnamese summer rolls, but it wasn’t at all. (It says “Manga! Eat me” on it.) Without speaking, the waiter gestured us to take a bite, dip it in the powders, and eat.

Course 7: Tactile Vegetable Garden
TV dude told us to link arms with our neighbors and eat the vegetables by sticking our faces in the plates. This was pretty difficult for the ladies with long hair, but no one got too messy. It was one small bite each of tomato, spinach, broccoli, and maybe purple cauliflower? At the same time, the waiters went around spritzing fresh scented stuff close to our faces.

“Digestivo. Your choice of coffee or tea.”
The waiters asked you if you wanted coffee or tea, then spritzed the appropriate liquid in front of you. As we found out later during the Q&A, these probably weren’t actual coffee or tea, but specially crafted perfume that replicated the smells. They were actually quite nice and refreshing!

It ended with film clips of messages from the Futurist movement and some performing, then a quick Q&A with the director. In the end, my friends were glad that I had found something so unique to do (I hope they weren’t just being polite). Despite the fact that everyone felt clueless the entire time, afterwards I think people felt like they had fun. I know I laughed the whole time.

A bonus was that our buttons, which we needed to get into the play, got us 50% off pitchers of sangria at a nearby tapas restaurant so we did some food in the end.


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