Monday, August 1, 2022

Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

Somethng to Chew on
and Sam Maguire in Kerry


"Just because you can thrill a toddler by chewing with your mouth open doesn't mean you should.”--Michael Nesmith

A minority of people chew with their mouths open. I’m pleading the fifth here. The Late Norman Wisdom used to do it playfully to “annoy” his family.

But now an expert from the University of Oxford has claimed that eating with your mouth open is the best way to consume food, even if letting your fellow diners see your food as you chew is widely considered bad manners. Prof Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist, found that it maximizes flavour and allows you to derive as much pleasure out of each mouthful as possible.

Professor Spence and his team of researchers found that eating with your mouth open can make food taste better. Chewing food with your mouth open can help “volatile organic compounds” reach the back of the nose which can make food taste better, the new study said. Volatile organic compounds are molecules that can create aromas and contribute to the flavour of food. So the benefit of them reaching the back of our nose means it can stimulate cells responsible for our smell, which can “enhance” the dining experience. Charles Spence, says that we have, “. . . been doing it all wrong. When it comes to sound, we like noisy foods – think crunchy and crispy. Both crisps and apples are rated as more pleasurable when the sound of the crunch is amplified,” he explained. “To best hear the crunch of an apple, a potato crisp, a carrot stick, a cracker, crispbread or a handful of popcorn, we should always ditch our manners and chew with our mouths open.”

The team is trying to better understand how senses can impact the way we eat. As well as chewing with your mouth open, the Professor advises that people should use their hands to eat their food where possible. “Our sense of touch is also vital in our perception of food on the palate,” he says. The research shows that what you feel in the hand can change or bring out certain aspects of the tasting experience. “Feeling the smooth, organic texture of the skin of an apple in our hand before biting into it whole is likely to contribute to a heightened appreciation of the juicy, sweet, crunch of that first bite.” He added: “This can be extended to the feeling of grains of salt sticking to the fingers when eating French fries with our hands or the sugary residue of buttercream on a hand after picking up and biting into a slice of birthday cake.”

“Some say the first taste is with the fingers/hand. Texture provides useful information about the freshness and hence freshness of produce such as apples.

Wine experts and professional coffee tasters know to let the air in while tasting, so why not try the same by eating an apple with your mouth open? It may help to make the most of the 75-95% of taste that comes from the retro nasal olfaction – that’s the smell that emerges from the back of back of your mouth into the back of your nose when eating and drinking.”

I contacted Professor Spence and asked him what sort of feedback he got from writers of food etiquette and allied politically correct institutions.

Here is his reply::

    “Well, seems to have hit a nerve.
    I have received some of my first hate email !!?
    The wine/coffee experts appear to be in agreement and have been in touch.
    The food scientists are convinced you get more flavour with mouth closed.
    And Debrett's already allowed fine diners to eat some things with their hands.”

Now, with Oxford approval, isn’t it time that open-mouthed chewers formed some sort of association? How about CAVE, Chew and View with Enthusiasm?

* * * * *

Kerry has won the All-Ireland football final for the thirty-eighth time. The Sam Maguire Cup is once again in the Kingdom. Dan Doyle who grew up in Kerry’s Black Valley, which was the last place in Ireland to get electricity. He now lives thousands of miles away in the U.S. Looks forward to All Ireland Sunday. Here are his thoughts written on the eve of this year’s final;

“So tomorrow is the All Ireland final football match in Croke Park in Dublin. Two counties made it through after playing all year. This year it is Galway and Kerry. Tonight these players will sit and think about tomorrow. It is a time to reflect on a life with the ball. They start as young lads and some make it this far.

It takes a lot of help to step on that ground at Croke Park, a lot of luck, a lot of hours alone training, a lot of meditation, and a family who leaves them alone to get the bodies in tip-top form. To play tomorrow is an honour. This game is an amateur sport played by the fittest 30 men in the world.

I have had the privilege of knowing a few who made it this far. I have had the privilege of knowing a few who won All Ireland medals and to their dying day they remembered that game for the rest of their lives. One friend won two and he had them made into a bracelet for his mom. When she died she made sure he got them back. Most of us who win medals really think little about them but an All-Ireland medal is something special.

Tonight will be hard to go to sleep and tomorrow they will lace on the boots and march behind the Artane Boys band and when the referee blows the whistle all the nerves will go away. It will be tense in the beginning. Bodies will be tense and then it will start to flow.

If it is a good game the referee will be mostly out of it. It is a place where names are made. It will be all over and they will shake hands and swap jerseys. They will go home to Kerry and Galway and they will play it over in their minds for years. People will shake their hands and congratulate them if they win, but for those 30 tomorrow it is a world away from everyone except those men between the white lines.

It is actually a beautiful game to watch when it is played the way it is supposed to be played. Some will retire. Some will see they are too old as it is a young man’s game and as winter winds blow off the mountains players will hang the boots up, some forever. Anyway lads I am glad it is Galway and Kerry, two great sporting counties, and tomorrow night we will have a winner.

I used to love the third Sunday in September when Kerry played in Croke Park. I have seen a lot of good times and a lot of heartbreak too when we lose, I will listen on the radio to Ambrose O’Donovan in America. I could be anywhere looking at it on these big screens but I will do what my father did in the Black Valley when we listened to Kerry V Armagh long ago in 1953. I just won’t hit the Pye Radio with a stone hammer just because the battery died as Mc Corrig was taking the Penalty.

"Good Luck, lads, tomorrow and it is our honour to watch Gaelic games all over the world.”

The morning after the All-Ireland final in Kerry

See you in September.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

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