Obsessions with the Exotic

Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s “The Gourmet Club” is about five individuals whose desire for food leads them to a quest to finding a “symphony of foods! An orchestral cuisine!” (104). However, their desire for food takes a turn for the worst and turns into obsession for food that “their sole matter of concern from the moment the opened their eyes in the morning” (101) is what they are going to eat tonight. This obsession soon leads to a contest between the club members to see who can discovery a cuisine or food “whose flavors would make the flesh melt and raise the soul to heaven” (104). Their obsession with food highlights this obsession with the exotic in “The Gourmet Club” because their obsession with food is only satisfied with exotic dishes such as “Pigeon-Egg Hot Springs” (139), “Butterfly Broth” (139), etc.

The informal president Count G.’s quest for “an orchestral cuisine” (104) leads him to this Chinese Club where they “[enjoy] real Chinese food as they [listen] to that intoxicating music” (111).  He deems the food in this Chinese club to be delicious because it is authentic unlike the Chinese restaurants he and his club members went to. It is this authenticity that he craves because “he’d long suspected that such authentic Chinese food was precisely the ideal cuisine the members of the Gourmet Club were dreaming about” (112). His obsession with food leads him asking for the leftovers of this Chinese club’s meal because “he could hardly leave the place without at least a spoonful or two for himself” (120). This highlights Count G.’s obsession for exotic because he wants authentic Chinese cuisine even if it is to eat the leftovers of someone else. His obsession with food has literary overtake him because he says “when it comes to food, I lose control of myself, forget all commonsense!” when addressing the president of the Chinese Club. Count G.’s obsession to finding the ideal cuisine leads him to seek out authentic Chinese cuisine to satisfy his craving for delicious food. The authentic Chinese dishes are the same exotic dishes that satisfy the members of the Gourmet Club because Chinese cuisine is a foreign cuisine in Japan; therefore, an exotic cuisine in the food industry of Japan.

In conclusion, the Gourmet Club’s obsession with food leads them to search out exotic dishes to fulfill the hunger. In the end, the menu for that night’s Gourmet Club meeting was “Deep-fried Woman, Korean Style” which highlights just how much this obsession for food is also an obsession for the exotic because this dish is not “literally the flesh of a woman, deep-fried as tempura” (138), but is the tempura robe that clung to a beautiful girl’s flesh, who wearing this robe looked like a Chinese fairy, on a towel in the center of the table (138).  This obsession with food which leads to this kind of exotic method of consuming it gives the text a sense that this obsession will only lead to “raving lunacy or death” as Tanizaki Jun’ichirō ends “The Gourmet Club” with these exact words.

Work Cited

Tanizaki, Jun’ichiro. “The Gourmet Club.” The Gourmet Club: A Sextet, trans. Ed. Anthony H. Chambers and Paul McCarthy. Tokyo; London: Kodansha, 2001. 99-140. Print.

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