The Art of Consumption

Excerpt:
Rethinking the Restaurant: A Narrative Inquiry

Sensory Division:

He likes films where people escape through restaurant kitchens. Entrance scenes through kitchens that move beyond to a table in the restaurant are usually acceptable too. He notices that, for some reason, criminals always hold office hours in kitchens. Is this a privilege or a necessity?A year ago he’d set up his digital camera on a tripod in front of his television to take photographs of the kitchen escapes. It took some time to learn how to calibrate the camera so that the scan lines of his television didn’t interfere with the events on screen. He is not sure what to do with his archive, but knows that it will be useful at some point in the future. The contrast between the placid dining room and the bustling kitchen makes the escape exciting. These spaces seem to require each other. He begins to expand his archive.

One:

He is moving briskly, not only because he is late, but it is also unexpectedly cold for five thirty. It is becoming winter. He is thinking about the idiom “as the crow flies”, wishing he could move more directly. There is a method of measuring distances called Manhattan Distance, where you measure the distance between two points with only orthogonal lines—as if you were constrained by a grid. Luckily it is not Manhattan.He cuts through every alleyway and courtyard he can remember. Steam is being expelled through vents of the buildings filling the courtyards and alleyways. Steam shows the air as fluid—taking new forms as he moves through them. He has eaten in almost all the restaurants in this neighborhood. It is difficult to match the shifting steam clouds with any of the items on the menus that he could recite by memory. Some clouds seem like pure ingredients and others indiscernible concoctions, now mixing with each other and the more traditional smells of the alley.

At the end of the alley he pauses and turns around. He has a desire to construct the olfactory sequence again; This time in reverse. He is already late.

 

Two:

She is the last person in the kitchen team to handle the food before it goes out the door. From chef to waiter, from back of the house to front of the house. Everyone in the kitchen calls this activity plating, an expression she finds demeaning to her position. She is in control of all visual and aesthetic decisions, preferring not to taste.

She used to go to automats with her father as a child. Cumulatively, entire weeks must have been spent looking through glass. Well-lit mirrored cases. Like window-shopping, but more inspiring. Still-lives of aspic and meringue.

 

Three:

She finds it impossible to share a meal with others. More precisely, it is the sounds of others eating that she finds challenging, if not repulsive. Arrhythmic drags of knife and fork; clicks of bone on sterling silver; the peak frequencies of glass on glass waveforms. This makes her life socially problematic and isolating.

Curiously, she finds solace in the repetition and predictability in cooking. The cadence of chopping; the rising and crescendo of boiling water; the constant whirring of fan blades. A symphony of sorts that she finds therapeutic.

She is seated at the threshold, between the symphony of production and the cacophony of consumption. She imagines herself as the conductor, attempting to slowly incorporate the uncomfortable instruments. She wonders what it would be like to conduct from the audience or within the orchestra.

 


Publication Collaborators: Yarinda Bunnag, Carson Chan, INDA Students
Graphic Design: Vaguely Contemporary – John McCusker, Publication images courtesy of Vaguely Contemporary