Simulate dining out at home during social isolation

Sandi Toksvig (Photo by Mike Marsland/Mike Marsland/WireImage)

Just about my favourite podcast and YouTube channel is Vox Tox. It’s hosted by Sandy Toksvig, born in Denmark but a British resident for most of her life. Although only 4 feet 11 inches tall (yes, heightist) she’s had a remarkable career. But I won’t dwell on that. Instead I’ll talk about an episode of her podcast that amused me so much: “Who Invented Chicken Soup?” from 28 March.

Apart from covering early domestication of chickens and the first cookbooks, Sandy also talks about how much she’s missing eating out in the time of Social Isolation – not so much the food as the atmosphere. “Eating in company is one of life’s great pleasures.”

So here comes the bit that amused me.

Sandy’s partner found an audio sound effect track of a busy restaurant, and she plays it as dinner music at home each night.

I’ve just found something similar on YouTube. It runs for 10 hours, long enough to cover those marathon meals. Here’s the link: 

Last Thursday with dinner we tried the restaurant ambient sounds, and it worked for me. Linda was less pleased I have to say. I found it best with some music playing over the top of the restaurant noise.

Choosing the music is important. Make sure the selection is completely at odds with the food, the way real restaurants do. For Thai food try Bing Crosby or any of the American crooners. For Indian or any sub-continent food? Perhaps some Gilbert and Sullivan such as The Pirates of Penzance. If you’re going for that fine-dining experience, with the best plates, silverware, linen napkins and candles, try country or bluegrass music.

Getting the volume mixing just right is also important. Don’t let the music drown out the babbling diners and cutlery noise. It should be at a level where you know it’s playing, can identify some tracks, but too soft to enjoy it. If the music still doesn’t sound quite right, try turning the bass down and the treble up. Removing soft furnishing from your dining room can help too; get the noise bouncing off the walls the way kids do at real restaurants after eating that super-sugary desert.

With a bit of practice your home dining can be the equal of any restaurant experience. You don’t need to change out of your pyjamas, and roadside random breath testing and crazy restaurant wine prices will not detract from a glass or three from your favourite vineyard.

Enjoy!

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