Thursday, October 24, 2013

31 Days of Inspired Holidays: day 24: Taste

In my mind a good Holiday celebration appeals to and stimulates all senses. The sensory experience of a feast is a huge part of creating memories.
It is also the only way you can separate reality from movies and internet... those appeal only to eyes and ears. You can't feel the softness of a pretty afghan in a movie, you can't taste the delicious looking pie or smell the glorious flowers of a nice decorating photo on the Pinterest. You have to experience that in "real life".
This is very important and a big reason to why you should bother at least a bit and actually do SOMETHING to hallow the Sabbaths.

So, how to appeal and stimulate your sense of taste?

By food, of course. Food, drinks, sweets and snacks. Everything that we put in our mouth we taste.

Taste is not quite as straight forward as the other senses. Taste is more of a holistic experience. We can influence our taste experience by our thoughts. We all know that if we expect to taste something awful, we are most likely to experience the taste as absolutely awful. It's like asking a child to "just taste it, if you don't like it, you don't need to eat it!", and the kid tastes a little tiny bit of something with his/her face wrinkled, already prepared to refuse the food, and immediately when his/her tongue touches the food starts gagging and spitting and expressing in every possible way how disgusting the thing was. Whereas the reaction could have been quite different, if the child had tasted the new thing either without knowing it was there, without any expectations, or among peers who liked the food.
Also, we know that the looks of the food, the smell of the food, the feeling of the food in mouth, the texture, how "slimy" or "chewy" the food is, if there are bits of bone, shots or some such in the food, the sound of eating the food, all that influences the taste experience.

"Atmosphere, colors, aroma, texture and taste impact the sensory appeal of meals. Sounds, sights, smells, feelings and palates make up a total dining experience. Each of the five senses plays an important part in the eating experience."

So - you should really take care of all these things when planning the Samhain menu.

If you haven't got already menu traditions for Samhain, build it on the menu traditions of your family. (If your family doesn't have a menu tradition, or you don't like it, or it doesn't fit your values or for what ever reason, build a new traditions build on other menu traditions, for example Thanksgiving dinner, Pesach Seder or some other such big family dinner.

I know that "disgusting foods" is part of the modern Western Halloween traditions, but I think it would be better for a Samhain dinner to try to make the food look and sound as delicious as possible.

Put a little extra effort on decorating the dishes.
Easiest way is to use edible marigolds (Calendula Officinalis) - use only petals. Marigolds are symbolic to Day of the Dead festivities and they are called "the poor man's saffron". The taste can vary, but these flowers have taste, and they also dye the food yellow, like saffron and turmeric.
Nasturtiums are also very pretty and right color.

You could also carve vegetables, especially carrots. It's relatively easy to carve flowers of carrots.

The easiest way is though to add some fresh herbs. A sprig of parsley makes miracles.

No, not like this... this isn't easy :-D
But you don't need to bother this much :-D

This pinecone appetizer looks interesting, too.
You can use a piping bag to pipe your mash into pretty forms (or make ghosts...)
It's easy to create a "spiderweb" on your starter soup - I like it better like that, off center.
You can serve the stew from a pumpkin

Some other tips, hints and ideas about food:
- serve pickles and condiment sauces. That's a really easy way to add flavor and color to your dinner, and everyone may adjust the meal to their specific taste.
- Don't forget to make all the meals special, from breakfast and lunch to dinner and movie snacks
- watch the smell of cooking - see that you don't burn anything, but that there's a lovely, appetizing smell of food in the air
- warm the plates for warm dishes, cool them for cold dishes. That enhances the eating experience.
- don't throw away your work on letting people eat by the television. Take some time to dine together, and sit down.
- set the table. 
- you can have some nice, soft music in the background, if you want to.

Taste is linked to emotional states, and so it can alter mood and brand perception.

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