The event was billed as “Dinner in the Dark.” We wouldn’t see what we were eating and that made it all the more mysterious as to how that could be achieved. When our hosts were asked, they were evasive and so I said, we shall see. Oops, I forgot. We shall not see.
But the project of the Junior Chamber of Commerce is a serious fundraising for the Parents Advocates for the Visually Impaired Children. Two parent members, Francis and Linda Choy, said that the donation will finance training for their children for the Paralympic Games, the international sports competition for the physically handicapped. And here was an opportunity for guests to experience what eating without seeing the food must be like for their children.
We were given blindfolds, then lined up, each group with volunteer-handlers from the Enderun Colleges, and led to the table.
We used our hands to navigate through the table setting and determine where the plate was and the number of flatware that indicated how many courses would be served.
Linda Choy told me that she would inform her visually impaired daughter where certain things are on the table by indicating the positions according to the numbers on the clock.
And so, I located the water glass at one o’clock. But I didn’t even sense that the wine glass was brought to the table until my seatmate said she was drinking some. And there it was at two o’clock. It would have been a delightful exercise to guess if it was red or white, remembering Jeffrey Steingarten’s essay on that. But then everyone heard the waiter say that it was a Marques de Caceres red, a Crianza 2007.
The first course was served. Everyone said it smelled of mushrooms and the waiters confirmed it was so. Finding the spoon with my right hand, I led the spoon to touch my left fingers that were on the bowl’s rim, then navigated the spoon to get a bit of the soup that was thankfully not scalding hot. It was really easy to bring spoon to the mouth, possibly because my body’s GPS (global positioning system) was working correctly. When I commented that there was garlic bread that went with the soup, my seatmate said she didn’t even know.
There was a group performing through the dinner but it was difficult to clap because we would have to let go of our spoons and that would mean looking for those afterward.
My seatmate and I didn’t hear the waiter announce the main course. And so, we guessed correctly that it was fish, thankfully, because that meant we didn’t have to use our knives to cut, a prospect that was scary because a slip could mean food flying into our laps.
We later tried to guess what the fish was and I said it had the texture of lapu-lapu but it turned out to be salmon and the sour notes were the chopped vegetables and mango salsa served with it.
We all noted how we got big chunks of fish one time, all skin another time and practically nothing sometimes. And we wondered why a rioja was paired with the salmon because the two didn’t jell.
Fine dining means food is presented at certain spots on the plate and a fork will not tell you what you are getting—a siding or the main thing. So the plate’s geography involved touching the food. My grandmother would have disapproved.
The dessert was chocolate mousse, but we hardly touched the red sauce with it because we didn’t know it was there.
Finally, we were asked to remove our blindfolds and we squinted at the brightness of the lights. Still, we were all smiling at how we survived and ate quite well.
Someone asked if our other senses compensated for the lack of visual information. Well, my hearing wasn’t acute because I missed the waiter’s info on the fish course. And writing about food has trained my taste buds to detect even the subtlest flavors and texture.
But we giggled at how we still gestured while talking even if the food couldn’t be seen. And how our first feeling of “being in the dark” was looking for the venue of the dinner since Best Western Hotel at Fort Bonifacio had just opened.
“Dinner in the Dark” as a concept has been done in Europe and the United States. Someone said to look at the “Opaque” site where it said that the servers are visually impaired. That should indeed take a lot of training.