Gourmet Exoticism

Tanizaki Jun’ichiro’s The Gourmet Club portrays food as erotic tool that sets a group of five men to embark on a search for the ideal food cuisine. One day the leader of the group, Count G, finds a private restaurant he is drawn to by the Chinese cuisine offered, due to the lack of authentic Chinese food in Tokyo.  Nevertheless, their goal to obtain an orchestral cuisine is only achieved once they utilize their endless imaginations to achieve a taste like no other. Tanizaki Jun’ichiro implements the idea of continuity of new food cuisines to emphasize the concept of exoticism in The Gourmet Club.

When Count G returns to his club, he features food dishes which appear to be common Chinese dishes which feature tastes unfamiliar to the club members. Count G’s argument to achieve better tasting food is to taste food “with their eyes, their noses, their ears and at times with their skins. At the risk of exaggerating, every part of them had to become a tongue”(121). Each individual has different views and reactions the food they consume therefore a dish is only as exotic as the individual allows it to be. The more the men exaggerate about the aspects of the food, the better the food will taste and the more exotic the dishes become to the gentlemen. When the bok choy fingers are served, they are served using erotic techniques to prepare the men for a different cuisine experiences. Before they ate, a young woman would rub her face against his, caress his neck, and give him a facial massage to seduce the man into believing the woman’s fingers were inside his mouth when eating the bok choy (135-136). The individuals create these visions in their minds and hence gain a new cuisine experience that satisfies their constant desire for exotic dishes.

The men of the Gourmet Club are consumed by the idea of searching for fine cuisine to the point where their senses cause them to slowly lose their sanity. “They no longer merely “taste” or eat” fine cuisine, but are “consumed” by it and could only lead to two outcomes, either raging lunacy or death” (138) because these men cannot be kept from creating new forms of cuisine. Since the Count’s course depending on a combination of senses, his creations became more exotic as he experimented with food that can be felt moving inside one (Bok Choy Fingers) to food that can be worn (Deep Fried Woman). Their use of imagination calls for an expansion of possibilities for food experiences which they are desperate to taste even if it may be the last meal they ever have.

Exoticism is revealed through the character’s never-ending desires for exotic cuisines. Throughout the story, the characters continuously think about what new foods they should try next and there is never a stop to the creation of exotic foods. The old style of eating is irrelevant therefore allowing new exotic styles to prevail in The Gourmet Club.

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