The Lure of “Magical” Food

28 Sep

Through the character of Count G, Tanizaki presents the reader with the strangely provocative allure of “magical” food. Beyond the simplicity and transience of regular food, the experience of exotic “magical” food transcends all other worldly experience and uses the senses of smell, sight, touch, and taste. Count G and the other members of the Gourment Club are fascinated with this magical Chinese food to the point where it becomes an obsession. Though “magical” food is not necessarily Chinese, it always is characterized by some kind of exoticism. Moreover, magical food possesses a kind of enigmatic incomprehensibility that requires time and effort to understand, but in the process, it is easy to become drawn into the continual cycle of addiction. This is what happens to Count G, who whether “asleep or awake, saw only dreams of food…” (Tanizaki, The Gourmet Club, 104). The lure of “magical” food is similar to the lure of the unknown “exotic” that draws the hero to his or her doom in every story and movie.

For example, the Grimms Brothers’ fable Snow White and the Seven Dwarves tells the story of a young girl, Snow White, who is tempted by a “magical” red apple that is so different from anything she has ever seen that she must eat it, despite her suspicions of the old woman who gives it to her. The apple ultimately poisons her, but the weak resolve on Snow White’s part is no different the weak resolve of Count G when he comes across new and mysterious types of gourmet. Both characters are drawn by the temptation of “magical” food: in Snow White’s case, because it is enchanted to be so; for Count G, it is because the food has no kind of palpable “enchantment,” but rather an intangible one that is fueled by his obsession.

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