Not given to political correctness for the sake of it, I yet find the idea of a ‘blind restaurant' revolting.
It isn’t new, and has branches in a few cities. Dans le Noir (In the Black) is staffed by blind waiters and waitresses. You can only choose whether you want meat, fish or vegetables, but not specify anything more. Same goes for cocktails. You are led by a guide and the visually-impaired staff becomes your eyes.
It is completely dark and you don’t even know who you are seated next to. Once the food arrives, you are informed and then begins the battle of trying to figure out what it is.
A report says, “It’s also a great chance to break free of social convention and eat using your fingers. Those same fingers are also the only way you can tell how much wine you’re pouring into your glass.”
After fumbling and spilling and making conversation with your neighbour, when you are done, you are taken to the lit bar area where they show you what you ate and the person you discussed the food with. 60 people spend 90 minutes indulging in this charade.
I know there are quirky food places and ideas. But is this a quirk? What kind of people would pay to experience the feeling of being blind? Do these eateries assume that blind people have no choice in the matter of what they eat? The idea of diners poking into bits of food and swirling their fingers in wine glasses just demeans those who cannot see. However, I know quite a few such people and this is most certainly not how they eat and drink.
The patronising bit of them acting as guides only makes it worse. It reiterates the theory that they have to live in eternal darkness and even then must display their independence. They cannot afford not to as they have to cater to the paying customer’s whims.
What learning experience can this be when the people come out and have a good laugh? Not only is it insensitive, I wonder about the kind of idiots who cannot manage to at least know from the aroma a little bit of what they are being served.
Darkness has many meanings and manifestations. I recall a visit to some old ruined castle in the UK where the big thrill was cobwebs hanging down some caves. The highlight was that some spooky creature would leap out and frighten the hell out of you. This was for a lark, to recreate an ambience.
Dans le Noir cannot afford to play such pranks because it is toying with disability, a ‘let’s see how it feels’ situation. There is no attempt at empathy or understanding. It is a vile commercial proposition and a rather sad success story, which it appears to be from the fact that it has spread out in different cities. It reveals that very many human beings are so devoid of vision that they want to act blind when they cannot see beyond their limited worlds.