The Gourmet Club starts off fairly innocently as a tale of five obese well off Japanese men who just really like food. Their quest to consume the best life has left them bored with the current cuisine offered to them from Tokyo, and eventually the lead member the Count, has reached the point where he dreams of the perfect meal, one he has never tried but can only wish to enjoy. This leads him to journey to a Chinese food hall in a small district in Japan where he witnesses “Food Magic”. In the explanation of what kind of food is made in the food hall, and the description of the secrecy of the food in the hall, is where I believe Tanizaki Junichiro makes the crucial hypothesis that Food is both an allegory for the boom of exoticism In japan, as well as food being near mystical in its conception.
Tanizaki shows this when the Count begins making the food he saw conceived in the food hall. With the strange preparation and presentation of dishes like “Deep Fried woman, Korean Style” and the Ham with cabbage, it seems that the allure to crazy out there food preparation seems to have started with the count’s journey to the Chinese food hall. The fact that the count went to a Chinese food hall to gain the secrets of truly sensual food gives reason that Tanizaki thought that gaining a path to higher food quality was to be gained from worldly experience, not through the same tired and true cuisine.
The idea of Sensuality in food is also exotic, though not in the same sense as gaining cuisine from other cultures. The description of the ham and cabbage dish is very sensual, focusing on the licking of fingers, and the swallowing of fluids to give the same experience as reading nearly pornographic material. Bringing in a different understanding of food through different senses (especially those used in an entirely different act altogether) give the food a different feel, and make it an different experience. Through the use of sensuality to describe food, Tanizaki makes us feel the food differently, and through the sensuality of food only being explained in detail when eating the Chinese food from the count, we acquire a shared understanding that cultures different from your palette gives off a taste so different that you’ll acquire a near sexual climax from food.
Furthering the exoticism in the story is the way the count finds the food. Clouded in a opium den, looking through a secret panel to peak a glimpse at the food being made, whilst gazing upon a crowd filled with beautifully dressed men women, with the leader dressed in an elaborate robe with squirrel lining. Truly its something out of a dream, with the last words of the Chinese attendant “People come in here to look at the scene next door and then slowly float off into dreamland” confirming the dreamlike qualities of the food hall and off the entire endeavor.