I owe many people an apology. For years I masticated in public – openly, with unseemly vigour. I failed to curb my behaviour, even when the venue or occasion most demanded. Were you with me in the Oyster Room at the Dorchester, maybe the Ivy in Covent Garden, perhaps The River Café in Fulham? As we gathered at the table, I hope you didn’t draw the short straw, sitting directly opposite, forced to watch? In my defence, I was barely aware I was doing it, much less why.
As nasal polyps nibbled at my sense of smell, my eating habits degenerated in vain attempts to maintain taste. I chewed relentlessly, mining ever harder for food molecules, urging their release up the retro-nasal passage at the back of the throat. My bovine behaviour ensured I was always last to finish. Worse, in those earlier, polyp-blocked, pre-op days, eating and nose breathing were mutually exclusive. So my biggest apology is reserved for the moments when my mouth became an open-air theatre.
Later, when aroma disappeared altogether, my chewing choreography changed. I moved my food up and down, round and round. Unfortunately, this mouthfeel magic roundabout is strictly a participation sport. “Stop it,” implored my partner as she smacked my hand. But habits are easy to form and harder to break. “How many times do I have to tell you?” she screamed, a little less lovingly, as she kicked me under the table.
This Pavlovian training has me pretty much sorted these days. In company, I dine like a dignified Dr Jekyll. Yet there’s this other voice; compelling, dark, from deep within. Mr Hyde insists that table manners aren’t to everyone’s taste. Sometimes, when I’m alone, a suppressed Mr Hyde emerges….in a noisy anosmic orgy of heavy breathing, happy chomping and lascivious slurping.