The Quest for the Exotic

In Junichiro Tanizaki’s work, The Gourmet Club, he tackles the issue of exoticism and its value to food, especially to the members of this club. The Gourmet Club in reference to the text is a group of five men who has a strong passion for food. They have a passion so strong that it is better described as an obsession. This group of men can be considered next level foodies. They have tried literally every form of fine cuisine that Tokyo has to offer. Now their struggle is to find something that is different – a new flavor. To show the almost crazy obsession that the club members have for food and their quest to create, if not find, a flavor that is both new and appealing to their taste buds, Tanizaki employs a great deal of visual descriptions and metaphor.

Count G., despite being the youngest member of the club, is considered to be the unofficial president because they usually hold the meeting in the upper floor of his mansion. Out of anyone in the club, Count G., is the one who is most responsible in discovering novel flavors. Whether he is awake or asleep, food is everything that he thinks about; it is the only thing that matters to him. He dreams of food in the most vivid way possible. To describe one of his dreams, Junichiro Tanizaki, used a great deal of visual descriptions to give the audience an image of what was happening inside Count G.’s head as he sleeps. The author described in his dream food “turned into a fluid like piss from the abscess, a kind of sludge upon the tongue’s surface” (106). However, Tanizaki didn’t just describe the dream for the sole purpose of description. His word choice reflects the craziness that was going on inside of the Count’s head. He described the dream in great detail as if to gross out the audience.

What is ironic about having this unappealing description is that the club seemed to be sophisticated at first. Each member of the club seemed to be of high social class to afford eating all kinds of food without having to work. They also have eaten every fine cuisine that Tokyo has to offer. To them, food is equivalent to art if not of higher value. They crave for “a symphony of food! An orchestral cuisine!” (104). But in reality, they just want something that is both new and good because since all they do is eat to their heart’s content, they have tried literally everything and they are now tired of everything that is easily accessible to them.

Exoticism is basically being foreign and unusual. This idea plays a huge role in the text because it has become the club’s quest to find out something exotic to their taste buds, something as foreign as a “Deep-Fried Woman, Korean style” (138). Tanizaki was able to present the idea of exoticism to his audience by using food and taking people’s cravings to a whole new level.

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