Now I’m no teenager, I’m pushing 50, but I went to my share of arena shows, I saw the Clash, and the Ramones at small, acoustically challenged rock clubs and listened to a Walkman and then an Ipod for years and still do when I run, and not to sound like an old geezer, but WTF is up with the volume these days? Are we collectively losing our hearing, so we collectively turn up the volume on everything? SO LOUD. Restaurants? Forget it, I won’t go in if it’s too loud in there. I have a decibel meter app on my phone, and it’s always in the red zone. And if you’re playing candy crush on your phone on the subway, do you need to keep sound effects turned on? Could everybody, please, just SHUT UP?
But since this is a show about food, and Foodiness™, let’s talk about food noise.
Sounds from real, actual food, are fine. Crunchy, juicy apples, or spooning up creamy, real yogurt, licking runny, ripe cheese right off a plate (what, you don’t do that?) tearing into a crusty loaf of bread, those are all fine. It’s the sounds of Foodiness, that drive me nuts, because those sounds are highly engineered, and carefully calibrated, to deliver the snappiest snap, the crispiest crunch, the slurpiest slug, and that makes me crazy. Because in the same way that all those engineered, manufactured foods are highly calibrated to appeal to our top thresholds for salt, fat and sugar, making us unable to appreciate the complexity and subtlety of real, diverse, actual food, the engineers also calibrate the SOUNDS of Foodiness. Making the Pringles crunch just so, based on hundreds of hours of consumer test panels and market research. Making the viscosity of the yogurt in a tube just right, so that when lil’ Fletcher sucks it down in the minivan while he’s glued to his Ipad, it won’t drip onto the faux leather seats and stink up the place, and it’s thick enough that he thinks it’s more like pudding, than actual yogurt.
The engineered sounds of Foodiness™ are the noise pollution of our food environment. They drown out the sounds of our actual food. A droning microwave humming and then “ping”! delivering a piping hot, but previously frozen burrito cancels out the sizzle of a skirt steak on a grill, the slap-slapping of a hand making a tortilla. The breaking airlock seal on an opening can of soup, with a pull tab these days because a can opener is too much technology for the Wall-E crowd, is a steamroller of sound compared to a slow, simmering, dreamlike bubbling of a day-long braise or broth. How can we learn to appreciate and embrace the real, when the cacophony of the Foodiness™ is all around us, drowning it out? Maybe we need anti-Foodiness sound retraining seminars, down here in the shelter… We sit in silence, and eat the quietest foods we can find. Bananas, mushrooms, pudding…sshhh. We’re eating.