Tag Archives: taste

Dans Le Noir – Eating in the dark

I recently had a genuinely new experience.

My partner and I had a meal in the dark – I’m not talking about eating a burger with the lights off, I’m talking about a full three course meal, with strangers in total darkness.

It’s rare enough to be in total darkness – to literally not be able to tell if you have your eyes open or closed. Then we had the added layer of being around people we had never met (or knew were there) and eating a mystery meal.

Let me explain.

There is an amazing restaurant in London (and at other locations around the world) called Dans Le Noir. When you arrive, you go into a fairly standard waiting area with a bar. It’s dimly lit, but everything is easily visible. The host then asks you to use one of the free lockers provided to stow away your bag, coat and any piece of jewelry, watch or electronic equipment that can emit light or glows in any way.

Next you are invited to choose from the menu. You have the choice of 2 or 3 courses and a choice of menu plan – vegetarian, seafood, meat or chef’s choice, which could be anything at all. Being in an adventurous frame of mind, we both opted for the Chef’s choice and waited to be seated.

At the alloted time we were asked to enter an even more dimly lit corridor where we were told what would happen. We just needed to push through the curtain in front of us where we would be met by our waiter for the evening. With some slight trepidation we stepped into total darkness. We moved in single file with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us, with the front person being led by our waiter. We couldn’t see him, but he gave us clear instructions as we all shuffled round the impossibly dark room to our seats.

One of the unique elements of this restaurant is that all the waiters are blind. In normal everyday life, it’s common to think of someone who is blind as being disabled or limited, but in this situation they had the upper hand over us. Without our waiter we would have been totally lost. He navigated the space with ease and we were utterly reliant on him.

When we were seated, we found our place settings, napkins (which we were advised to tuck into our collars) and water glasses. We were seated opposite our partners on a long trestle table – think the dining hall in Harry Potter but scaled down. I actually have no idea how long it was – I’m totally guessing!

After a few minutes of working out our space and checking in with each other we worked out that there was a couple seated to my right (who had recently got married) and initially empty seats to my left.

We were bought a bottle of water. Simple enough right? Try pouring yourself a glass of water from a bottle with your eyes closed – certainly not impossible, but it takes a bit of thinking about.

Conversation quickly started. As we had heard the couple to my right, we did the fairly natural thing of introducing ourselves. Under normal circumstances, that may have been the only conversation we had with those people as we became absorbed in our own experience, but that too was changed by the dark. When a question or statement was made, we had no way of knowing who it was aimed at, so the comfortable thing to do was to respond. At one point I mentioned (to my partner) that my eyes were playing tricks on me in the darkness and it was like I could see stars – but not like the sky at night, like I was going into warp drive on a spaceship from Star Wars or something – the next thing I knew we were having a 6 way conversation with people (some of whom I had no idea were even there) about Star Wars – so surreal!

Then came the food. I don’t want to tell you guys what we ate in case you try this experience for yourselves, but I do want to share what it was like for me.

The first challenge is finding your food on the plate – I’m not going to lie, fingers played an extensive role in my eating. You just don’t get enough feedback from cutlery to let you know what you’re dealing with. Then came the taste. When you recognise what you are eating, it all makes sense, but when you are unsure it can become very confusing. I thought one piece of meat was pork, then steak before I came to the conclusion it was venison. FYI I was wrong all three times!

We both quickly realised how easily things could be adapted to make it easier when you couldn’t see – for instance you could have dents or marks in the table so that you knew where your place setting started and finished and you could make the handle of the fork different textures on the front and the back so you knew which way round it was.

Part way through our main course some new people came in and were seated on my left. It was so interesting to hear them work through things in the way we had done and to notice how quickly we had become acclimated to the situation.

It was almost disappointing when the end came and we moved back to normality. Our waiter graciously helped us back to the lit world where we saw his face for the first time – I have to admit he looked nothing like I thought he would and at that moment I realised how much store I put in what someone looks like, despite my many and varied protestations that looks do not matter. The was a quote in the reception area that said one of the unique elements of this experience was it’s lack of Vanity, and that certainly held true for me.

The final part of the experience was to have the menu shown to you. I was genuinely surprised at how wrong I had got some of it. I like to think of myself as a bit of a foodie, and whilst some of the dishes were a bit unusual, I had got some really simple stuff wrong. Like – really wrong.

I would strongly recommend this to anyone, especially someone who enjoys a great meal, but even if you’re not a gastronomic explorer, do something that changes your experience. You learn more in a couple of hours of immersion than you ever will thinking about what it would be like.

There is so much more I could write about this – it was (if you will excuse the pun) an eye opening experience, but I’ll finish with a couple of my favourite quotes from the evening.

“Just pop your finger in and you can’t go wrong”

“The tentacles got the better of me”

“Are you still there?”

and last but not least

“That’s not my hand”

 

 

 

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How do I help a fussy eater?

Hello beautiful people!

It’s May already. A third of the way through the year? How’s it going? Are you getting closer to your goals? Have you given up on them? Maybe they’ve just changed as your priorities have.

In January I decided that May would be a good month to talk about food. So, here goes.

Food – I love food. That’s not quite right – I LOVE food. I’m one of those people who wake up in the morning thinking about what they are going to eat today. I enjoy eating it, I enjoy cooking it, I enjoy shopping for it, I enjoy trying new things and revisiting old familiar things.

I like exploring food – if there is a new taste, a new texture, a new sensation to be had – I want it. My partner recently tried miracle berries. They were on my bucket list to try, so I was very excited to give them a go.

Miracle berries have a strange property. They stop you from tasting sour. So we lined up a load of foods which you normally think of as sour or sharp. We cut up lemons, limes, grapefruit and cooking apples. We got sharp tasting liquids like lemon juice, and vinegar. We got pickled things like onions and cabbage. We even got some guinness – not a classically sharp taste, but suggested as part of our little experiment. We got them all lined up and sucked on our miracle berries.

You have to keep them in your mouth for about 5 minutes. They don’t have a particular taste and there was no real sensation so I was a little doubtful that they would work. We were both a little nervous going for our first sharp flavour, but figured in for a penny, in for a pound, so grabbed a wedge of lemon and bit in….

….and it was delicious! It had the sweetest, loveliest flavour ever! We were so thrilled with the effect we blatted through the rest of the foods, amazed with their varying flavours. It was a really good fun half an hour. The effect started to wear off towards the end, but it was a gradual fade, so the sharpness just crept in slowly, and was kind of great too.

As part of my practice I’ve worked with a few people with food phobias. Generally these are adults, as for some reason, people think it’s perfectly OK for their kids to be fussy eaters. They let their kids get away with a restricted diet which then leads to issues for them as adults. As well as obvious problems like malnutrition, poor skin, poor eyesight and generally poor health, being a fussy eater can make it more difficult for people to socialise, to be around others, to train and to manage their weight. For me, eating new things is such a joy, I love helping people discover that joy for themselves.

A couple of quick tricks you can try if you are trying to eat new things.

First – don’t force it! All you are doing is building resistance if you try to force yourself to eat something. Try getting yourself in a position where you can be relaxed and comfortable before you try a new food.

Secondly – make it a really small amount. What ever food you are trying, cut a really small amount of it up. I mean really small. Then put that tiny piece in your mouth. Notice what it feels like, what tasted you notice, what thoughts it makes you think of. Do this every day for a month. Always try a small piece, but if you feel more confident, you can make it a bit bigger each time.

Finally – cook it in a different way. Don’t like boiled carrots? Try roasting them…or poaching them in sugar water with star anise, or grating them on a salad, or grating them into a bolognaise sauce, or just try them raw! Just because you don’t like them the way that you’ve tried them before, doesn’t mean you won’t like them a different way.

 

 

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Self Care Advent Calendar Day 20

Oh my goodness – just 5 days to go!

Yesterday I started looking at the senses and your hearing got a little TLC.

Today can I suggest that you pay a little attention to your tastebuds?

For many of us one of the greatest joys in life is our sense of taste. Personally I just love to eat beautiful foods and drink amazing drinks. I very rarely drink alcohol, but when I do it’s an excuse to try a cocktail with some new flavours.

What sort of tastes stimulate you? Some have a sweet tooth, some prefer things more savoury. Some like it hot, others mild. For me the combination of sweet, sour, salt, chilli and oumami that you tend to get in Thai foods really works.

One of the greatest gifts I ever gave myself was to enjoy the taste of foods that are good for me. I used to hate salmon – all fish in fact. I did like chilli, so in order to be able to eat a piece of salmon (which you are recommended to eat twice a week to get all the lovely healthy oils from)  I used to make salmon fish cakes with enough chilli in to mask the taste of the fish. I can’t say as I really enjoyed them to start with, but I did get used to them. There is a theory that if you eat any food every day for 3 weeks then you will start to like the taste. I didn’t eat it every day – just a couple of times a week. Slowly, over time, I began to enjoy it. I started changing up the recipe, less chilli, more salmon. Then I started cooking salmon in the pan and eating it with salads, or baking it in the oven and eating it with some steamed veggies. Now I actively look forward to eating it. I don’t eat it just because I should, but because I want to.

Self care is a balance. It’s balancing what’s good for you with a little of what you like. Sometimes that’s eating healthy, nutritious food. Sometimes it’s giving yourself a treat (just make sure it is a treat and doesn’t become the norm – if you’re doing it more than twice a week it’s getting a bit routine!). The ultimate win is when you find something that is both healthy and that you look forward to.

So my challenge for you today is a choice. I’d like you to eat/drink something that you find yummy – really yummy – but if you’re up for it I would also like you to choose a food that you think you should eat more of (fish, vegetables,whole grains, nuts etc) and work on ways of incorporating them into your diet. Clearly you shouldn’t eat anything that you are allergic to, or even if you just have a reaction to, but a mixed healthy diet is one of the best ways I know to take care of yourself.


Changing your diet can be difficult on your own. If you are looking for ways to release yourself from fussy eating habits, or just from eating too much junk, then you don’t have to do it on your own. There are people out there – like hypnotherapists – who can make it a lot easier for you.

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