Food: Synesthesia and Discoveries

In Tanizaki Junichiro’s “The Gourmet Club,” is about a club that consists of five members, who go to places to try new kinds of fine food, different from all the same old Japanese food. The group’s search for new and fine cuisine all began from Count G., president of the Gourmet Club. Count encounters a new food experience that later gives him ideas to create his own kind of interesting dishes. In “The Gourmet Club,” Tanizaki uses food as a source of a new discovery and synesthesia to dramatize the idea of exoticism through Count’s encounter with a Chinese club in Japan and the banquet meals he holds for the club members. 

Food is used as triggering one’s senses, which can lead someone to find something new, like Count. It is evident through Count’s encounter with the Chechiang Hall. Count discovers a Chinese club in Japan, the “three-story wooden house in Western style…he stood beneath the balcony listening to the sound of the violin, its eerie melody stimulated his appetite, just as if it had been the smell of food cooking” (109). Before, the sound of music triggered Count’s sense of hearing to discover a place he has never seen. Knowing that the Chechiang Hall consists of real authentic Chinese food, Count tries to find ways of consuming the authentic food. However, it is impossible because of a physical barrier of locked doors and closed windows, representing the idea of exoticism: how geographically China and Japan are far-off. Despite Count’s strong desire for the Chinese food, the locked doors and closed windows echo how his fantasy for consuming the authentic food is still far from what he desires. Yet, Count’s unending efforts for the desire of Chinese food represent the extremity of achieving his goal of trying the food. When he sees the Chinese meals, he is triggered by the visual aesthetics of the empty dishes because of the satisfaction he sees on the people’s faces, illustrating how good the food is. Eventually, Count enters and explores the special Chinese meals he sees at the Chechiang Province.

After Count’s encounter with the Chechiang Province, Count prepares exotic dishes at The Gourmet Club banquet for the members. When the members try the dishes, their senses of tastes are triggered when they consume the Chicken Gruel with Shark’s Fins, realizing that the belching is the satisfying mark of the dish. Count tells them to see the new perspective of a fine cuisine. Count tells his members that the food was made from “Gastronomical magic!…they had to taste it with their eyes, their noses, their ears, and at times with their skin” (131). Although the meals Count prepares are mostly Chinese dishes, there is a barrier in which the taste of the Chinese food Count made can be different from the authentic Chinese food. Count’s ambiguous answer to the members about the recipe, illustrates exoticism, leaving his members far off in their imagination.

Overall, food plays a big part in “The Gourmet Club,” as the members, or gastronomers, are able to explore for unique fine foods in Japan. Between Count’s and the member’s discovery of authentic Chinese food in Japan, illustrates the geographical and traditional barrier between Japan and China. Yet, the role of food exaggerates the idea of exoticism, triggering synesthesia and finding a something new.



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