When it comes to food, sound supports the other senses, placing us in a three dimensional experience. Even though it seems to play a background role, the influence of sound on our heart and mind is perhaps the most powerful sense. In Feng Shui and Vastu, sound is recognized as having the ability to create motion through vibration. What we hear inspires us to react and that is why the aural environment is important in all stages of the food experience.
According to Pythagorus, and confirmed by Plato, sound is the primordial element. This is also embraced by the Vedas, which are considered the oldest books in the world. According to these beliefs, sound is the original element that creates vibration for movement. If we could hear across the entire aural spectrum, everything would have a sound, including the silence we currently perceive. According to the Vedas, physical environments can change through sound and it is also an important tool for spiritual connections. Sound is a key part of our environment affecting our mind, body and spirit. Often, ancient Greeks spoke in song. This is still evident through Cretan spontaneous poetry known as Mantinades. Sanskrit is a poetic language, verbalized with meter and rhythm, often with melodious incantations. Sanskrit is called Deva Nagiri, because it is believed to be the language of heaven and is structured in a way that creates change and movement. Brahminical culture maintains chanting specific Sanskrit mantras can change matter and alter the cycles of action and reaction they call Karma.
On more mundane levels, music can change moods, evoke passions and greatly effect perception. White noise and harsh noises can also make a difference. Harsh words, arguing, criticism and expressions of anger are some of the more obvious vocal distractions that affect us in both subtle and gross ways. Sound affects our mindset, bodily movement and clarity of spirit. It is natural to see how an aural environment can influence cooking. For me, cooking is an expression of what lies within, most often seeing myself as a conveyance of knowledge, tradition and creative expression. As some people are eloquent speakers, my eloquence is in the language of food and all that goes with it.
Often, traveling to Crete with my father and son, we found simple tavernas where waves lapped in symphonic meter by our feet while feasting on a crisp cucumber salad glistening with the liquid gold of fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil. Local dialects epitomized the Greek word onomatopoeia, with mellifluous chatter beautifully decorating the aural landscape. Mixed with the scents of the sea and the olive oil basted grills we entered a meditative state, much like Odysseus and the Sirens, where a concentrated effort to extract ourselves from the hypnosis was necessary to accomplish tasks of the day.
A visual landscape is dramatically enhanced by sound. The transition from silent film to “talkies” is one example of the difference. Sound gives depth and definition to sight. To create a fulfilling dining experience, chefs and restaurateurs sculpt the aural experience to compliment and enhance the sensual experience. In dining, sound is a compliment to the meal, a background enhancement that soothes and excites indirectly. Anticipation and salivation are encouraged with the sight of food cooking uttering companion sounds like crackling, spurting, bubbling, puffing and sputtering. Sound also plays a direct part as an accompaniment to taste, touch and aroma as food is consumed and we sense such things as crunching, slurping, chewing and swallowing. In some old cultures, a good belch at the end of a meal signifies a cook’s success. Listening, and becoming sensitive, to the sounds of cooking and eating is a very important part of the world of cooking. Just as a spice can change the nature of a preparation, so what we hear when cooking and eating alters the food and how we digest it.