Chew on This And A Life with Animals
It all started at a dinner in Blessington last June. During the meal a person across the table was gazing fixedly at me. I was sitting beside one Tom O’ Connor and I said to him, “I think that person fancies me.” Tom initially informed me that the person to whom I had been alluding was not into necrophilia. He then said. “You are being watched because you are chewing with your mouth open and that is the height of bad manners. “
I said “It’s not bad manners. Civilisation has warped our imagination and political correctness has made us victims of convention.” Then, because I knew his area of expertise ( he has a degree in Agricultural Science) I continued, “It’s not natural to chew with the mouth closed, there are 200 species of ruminant animals on the planet and you won’t see any of them chewing with their mouth closed,” I then pointed out that the Late Norman Wisdom used to do it playfully to “annoy” his family.
Tom then quoted some philosopher or other whose name I can’t recall who, according to Tom, said, “Just because you can thrill a toddler by chewing with your mouth open doesn't mean you should.”
This cross between a discussion and an argument continued between us until the dessert came around. At which point I said; “Listen Tom . Before the year is out I’ll give a speech that will prove beyond doubt that chewing with the mouth open is the most beneficial way to eat.”
You see I already knew that an expert from the University of Oxford had established that eating with your mouth open is the best way to consume food, Prof Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist, found that it maximises flavour and allows you to get as much pleasure as possible out of each mouthful. Professor Spence and his team found quote; “ . . that chewing food with your mouth open can make food taste better and can help “volatile organic compounds” reach the back of the nose which can improve the taste of food. 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, points out that we have, “. . . been doing it all wrong .When it comes to sound, we like noisy foods – crunchy and crispy. Both crisps and apples are rated as more pleasurable when the sound of the crunch is amplified ” .
So, to best hear the crunch of an apple, a potato crisp, a carrot stick, celery or a cracker, crispbread or a handful of popcorn, we should always ditch our manners and chew with our mouths open. The professor also points out 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 is likely to contribute to a heightened appreciation of the juicy, sweet, crunch of that first bite. This can be extended to the feeling of grains of salt sticking to the fingers when eating say a smoked cod and chips with our hands or the sugary residue of buttercream on a hand after biting into a slice such dangerous food as wedding cake. The experts say the first taste is with the fingers/hand. Texture provide useful information about the 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 taste that comes from the retro nasal olfaction – that as you know is the smell that emerges from the back of back of your mouth into the back of your nose when eating and drinking.”
New York Post editor Maureen Callahan, spotted a raft of celebs chewing with mouths open. I’m not going to name them but Ms Callaghan did in her piece in the Sunday Edition of the paper.
I contacted Professor Spence and asked him what sort of feedback he got from writers of food etiquette and allied politically correct institutions. He said his discovery had hit a nerve. He told me, “I have received some of my first hate email!!”
The wine and coffee experts appear to be in agreement and had been in touch with him and Debrett's, who publish all kinds of handbooks on etiquette now allow their readers stroke fine diners to eat SOME things with their hands.”
It is hard to believe but It's against the law to slurp your soup in public places in New Jersey. Apparently, noisy eating can be more than just a social faux pas in the state of New Jersey. This law may stem from an attempt to enforce manners in public, but it seems rather excessive to me and I think it would be difficult to enforce it today.
I have come up with a poster for eateries that may want to attract less than polite customers such as myself. Now, with Oxford approval isn’t it time that we, open-mouthed chewers,
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Raised by the Zoo, is the story of almost four decades spent working in Dublin Zoo. Gerry Creighton's father was a keeper at Dublin Zoo and young Gerry followed his father’s footsteps and joined the zoo at 15. I’ll tell you more about him next month.
See you in November.