Organ Sounds and the Munchies: A Dilemma

Last week, I found out about an organ recital going on in the chapel at Exeter College starting at 1:10 PM. Given that I had a break from 1 to 2 and that it was on the way to my second class, I decided to stop by, inhale a bit of historic music and hopefully come out of the experience a bit more cultured. But after my initial glee at being able to sit in on an organ recital wore off, I realized that I had left out one crucial factor in my otherwise precise ruminations about whether I should attend the recital or not: that one hour window was also my lunch break.

No problem, the mini-multi-tasker voice inside my head told me, just eat while you’re there. Multi-task!

Logical enough. And so I bought a sandwich, hopped back on my bike and, just outside Exeter College, dismounted and found my way to the 152-year-old chapel.

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!


With my first step inside, I rammed into a wall of gargantuan, all-encompassing sound. And then, along either side of my straight line of vision to the altar, I encountered a disturbing, zombie apocalypse-esque scene: men, women and children of all ages, from toddlers with the remnants of sugar smeared around their mouths to grandparents with snow-white heads of hair, were sitting in the individual stall seats, their limbs motionless and eyes closed or gently fluttering. The organ music, despite having started only a few minutes prior, had already insinuated its way into everyone’s brain and calmed down their bodies, creating a space protected from the constant commotion and chatter of modern life.

NB: The only signs of movement came from the flannel-shirted architecture students, who occasionally aroused from their serene slumbers to sketch the sacred space around them on oversized notepads.

As I moved farther into the marble-floored space, its vaulted ceilings flying over my head and the golden light of early afternoon twinkling in through the towering, stained glass windows, I became more and more aware of every sound emanating from my person: my slightly-winded breathing, the rustle of my backpack, the impact of my boots on the floor and even the sound of my hair rustling inside my winter hat.

Then, as I sat down in one of the pews and began to contemplate eating my mozzarella, artichoke and pesto sandwich (on lightly toasted wheat bread with a vast array of other chunky, crunchy vegetables), I realized my dilemma: there was no way I would be able to unzip my backpack to get at my sandwich — let alone munch on its ingredients — without awakening the entire chapel and arousing the wrath of Oxford University’s Organ Recital Etiquette Patrol Guards (OUOREPG). Fortunately, after a few minutes when the organ music had fully enveloped my body, I too was entranced and forgot about all of my hunger urges. It was only three quarters of an hour later, when I emerged from the chapel refreshed and a bit disoriented, that my hunger settled back into my stomach.

And so, after careful consideration, the food most tied up with music in my mind is that which one can eat discretely without causing any auxiliary noises or earning the snooty, suspicious glances of one’s audience neighbors.

That’s a tall order for food to fill. The above criteria rule out foods that are responsible for several gerunds often associated with eating: slurping, crunchy chewing, munching, grinding, or any other audible form of mastication.

Besides candies like mints or chocolates, what does that leave?

I asked some of my friends this question, and they came up with a variety of (ultimately unsuccessful or ambiguous) ideas for what might qualify as a silent, discreet food:

  1. Scotch eggs (my Liverpool friend’s suggestion; Sonia ruled this out due to the pungent smell that would be just as distracting as any noise);
  2. Salads (if it’s a fresh one, the crisp greens will probably elicit an audible noise when you munch on them);
  3. Noodles (slurping, obviously);
  4. Banoffee pie (I don’t know what that is, it must be a British thing);
  5. Jaffa Cakes (same as #4 above).

The most promising candidates were:

  1. Mashed potatoes;
  2. Banana in any of its forms – just a banana, mushy banana bits (à la baby food style), banana bread, banana pudding;
  3. Gobstoppers.

Ultimately, however, I decided on doughnut holes. These bite-sized, melt-in-your-mouth morsels are perfect for the surreptitious eater trying to sneak in a few more calories while enjoying a culturally significant musical event. And best of all, they’re covered in sugar, which means you’ll get that extra energy burst to push you through the last bit of the concert, recital or performance you’re sitting through, in case it ends up being a drag.

The recipe and pictures are forthcoming; I have a paper due tonight that I have to finish first!


UPDATE: Here‘s the recipe; I cobbled the concoction together as a hybrid from various doughnut recipes I’ve come across. The version I’ve created makes for light and fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth doughnut holes, and it relies on cooked-down apple cider for unexpectedly intense flavoring.

This post is from my writing for #LetsLunch, a group of writers and food enthusiasts from around the world. Every month, we decide on a category of food, devise a recipe to make and then tell a story about our culinary adventures.

You can check out more Let’s Lunchers’ music and food offerings by searching for the hashtag #LetsLunch on Twitter. If you’d like to join the group, submit a comment on this post!

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