In order to dramatize the idea of exoticism in ‘The Gourmet Club’, food is presented in the form of a desirable object of pursuit that is attained through a quest-like journey, yet the story also hints that in reality such a Utopian state doesn’t actually exist.
Food is heightened to the level of ultimate desire in parallel with the theme of exoticism. Exoticism was originally an art form birthed to illustrate earthly fantasies with oriental pleasures, and of a primitive curiosity to experience items of other cultures. Right from the beginning, the narrator describes the gentlemen as idlers with no occupation, and seemingly plentiful of money. This in effect singles out eating as their only definitive pursuit, and therefore highlights the intensity of their quest for good food as the only ‘fulfillment’ left in their lives. In constructing such a quest which places food as the ending holy-grail, the process of searching for food is therefore in effect very forward-moving. Gentlemen of the gourmet club are never seen relishing on wonderful meals they have previously enjoyed, nor do they ever savor a certain cuisine twice. This underlying progressive mentality is crucial in outlining the same incentives for mankind to always seek out new pleasures, and is what keeps the gentlemen’s journey moving. The members of the gourmet club hence never stop to appreciate existing flavors, but instead desire the charm of the unfamiliar, in their attempt to construct a Utopian of food
Food in many ways is utilized in shaping a mysterious state of perfect being for the gentlemen of the gourmet club. There are two important characteristics of this state, namely that it excites all of the senses, and also ironically, that it only exist in the mind and not in reality. Food, for the most part, is largely associated with taste and smell. In stretching this conventional set of sensory boundaries, the author expands Count G’s interaction with food so that he is stimulated in all aspects. In discovering the Chinese gathering, the Count is first drawn by the darkness of the ally, led by curiosity of sight. He is then attracted to the smell of rice wine, which stirs his appetite by pinpointing the presence of Chinese cuisine. Finally he catches the music of Chinese violins, which then elicits a torrent of imagery involving food. The Count takes sharp notes as the strong flavors of dragon fish, whereas richer tones are compared to thick broth. As a result seeking food enlarges to encompass all forms of sensory interaction, which is a defining quality of any utopia. Yet as exciting as this indulgence seems to be, this happy state doesn’t seem to actually exist. Much of the Count’s opinions are very subjective and not rooted in factual information. He judges Chechiang is an area with the richest ingredients without having ever been there. Also he readily admits that it is only according to people who had traveled there before that he understands Chinese cuisine in Japan to be of a different order altogether. None of these opinions which distinguishes Chechiang’s cuisine as superior is backed up by concrete proof. Which consequently implies that none of the Gourmet Club’s fantasies are indeed as magical as they are described. And that these men are in fact, mostly living in the high of their own imagination.
In conclusion, food in “The Gourmet Club” is structured as the reward at the end of a quest, which couples well with the idea of pleasure and desire in exoticism. On other hand, it is painted as a utopia which stimulates multiple senses, yet ultimately is one that is not believed to exist.