Of all the senses we have (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste), what are the main ones you would associate with eating food? Taste and smell, perhaps? Touch, at a stretch?
The reality is, we use all senses when enjoying our meals. Like most things, it’s only when taken away from us, that we truly appreciate its significance.
When Deafblind Scotland invited the Noble Twins to their Dining in Darkness in Deafening Silence event, we were really excited and more than a little intrigued. The unique sensory event, held at the Mother India restaurant (you know the place… there’s usually a queue out the door, it’s that popular!), invited us to enjoy a four course meal with our sight and hearing compromised, in the form of blindfolds and ear muffs.
An entire meal in silence, being unable to see what you’re eating or drinking! We were fascinated by this, and prepared ourself for the night ahead…
Despite first going for standard blindfolds, we decided to switch to the ‘tunnel vision’ glasses, which had a pin sized hole that you could barely see out of (this Wikipedia page has a great description and example of tunnel vision).
We joined the queue of fellow guests and, placing a hand on the person in front’s shoulder, made our way up two sets of spiral stairs in our long line. At the beginning, we all laughed and stumbled, but it swiftly turned into a sobering experience. We felt very vulnerable and even unsafe, if we’re honest. We were relieved to be led to our table and guided to our seats.
Through the tiny pin prick holes, we could almost see snippets of one another if we moved our heads in a particular angle. There was a candle between us and we couldn’t determine how close it was, so we were very careful when reaching across to one another. We did this a lot, as we squeezed each other’s hand with the now overwhelming emotion at the magnitude of this event. We’d signed up thinking it was going to be an exquisite culinary experience, but it wasn’t about that. Not at all. We found ourselves sampling the daily experience of so many deafblind people, in a way that went above and beyond well-meaning empathy.
Pouring drinks proved to be a mammoth task! It turned into a hilarity-filled group effort as we shouted directions to our neighbours, hoping they could hear us, and felt around for glasses. We were asked to be silent while our first course was served and eaten. This was terrifying! Not only did we not realise the plates had been put out in front of us until we tentatively felt for them, but we had no idea what was going to be on the plate! Cue images of slimy squid and raw bone marrow, or other such petrifying prospects. It turned out to be a vegetarian plate containing a (well-considered) mish-mash of tastes and textures. Every forkful brought a new sensation: sour, salty, tangy, crunchy, sweet, stodgy, spicy, cooling. Overall, it was a delicious course, but we were too suspicious and apprehensive to fully enjoy it, especially as we considered how this might be a regular occurrence for many deafblind people.
As we waited for next course, we were delighted to get a word with the owner of Mother India, Monir. We tried to get all the foodie details, but were denied, due to the surprise element! Monir did say, however, that he would recommend Turmeric as the spice of choice, if we were to try our own sensory experience at home. He also admitted feeling quite emotional about the event, as were we. As we couldn’t see him, we held hands as we spoke. It was quite moving!
The next course was a type of fish wrapped in foil, as the lady with the fillings sitting next to me found out! I heard people whisper that it was trout, but it turned out to be salmon. There was a parsley crust on top, which was to die for. I’m not the biggest fan of salmon, but this was delish! It made me wonder if the sight of it put me off in the past…
The next course was chicken, with mash and vegetables, in a slightly spicy sauce. We were expecting a curry of sorts, but weren’t disappointed! It was a bit awkward cutting into the chicken because it was still on the bone, and the soft mash was treated with suspicion before realising what it was! Midway through the meal, we were allowed to take our eye masks and ear muffs off, and it was surreal. Everything felt so… bare and heightened. Everyone chattered noisily and knives & forks scraped plates more confidently. It felt like being on an aeroplane and having your ears finally pop – that whoosh of sound again!
Unfortunately, we had to leave before dessert arrived. As we drove home, we reflected on what it must be like for those who don’t ever get to take the eye masks and ear muffs off. Our heads were throbbing from the tunnel vision glasses and we both agreed it would’ve become insufferable, had we worn them for much longer!
We would like to offer a heartfelt thank you to Deafblind Scotland and Mother India for such a humbling experience. We would thoroughly recommend it to anyone, and here’s how you can:
Deafblind Scotland are asking you to brave this experience for an evening and host your very own Dining in Darkness in Deafening Silence at home, in order to raise the profile of Deafblind Scotland and the array of work that they do.
They are offering Dining in Darkness in Deafening Silence home kits, which consists of one branded ear muff and an eye mask, menus from previous events for inspiration and some ideas on how you can make your night a roaring success! So get your friends round, get the oven on, and prepare for an evening of laughs, delicious food and a unique experience as you ‘dine in darkness in deafening silence’.
Take plenty of photos and videos of your evening, and they will publish it on their YouTube channel and social media. Don’t forget to use #dinedeafblind so they can find you!