The bingo boards’ squares were printed with items like “charred brassica with anchovy,” “berry compote with wine and white pepper” and “frikah with parsley sauce.”
Blindfolded bingo players sat at their boards, groping in front of them for paper cups filled with bite-sized portions of food.
The players were participating in a game of “blind-tasting bingo,” an event offered as part of the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival. The event took place over three nights at Washington High School, and Edible Portland invited a different chef to prepare 15 bites each evening for the bingo game.
The first night featured Jason French, owner of Ned Ludd. Hidden behind a curtain, French finished preparations for the bite-sized dishes. Once players secured their blindfolds, they tasted French’s concoctions and attempted to decipher each dish’s ingredients.
“I think it’s exhilarating,” one participant said after trying several bites. “It really helps you taste the food better if you don’t actually see it. You don’t know what to expect, so your other senses come into play first.”
French explained that this isolation of senses facilitates a new experience with eating. “I think the excitement comes in feeding oneself … to get excited about flavor again, to get excited about how food can taste when you drown out all of the media and when you drown out all of the white noise of misinformation and disinformation.”
At their tables, participants exchanged speculative whispers about the contents of their cups. Eggplant with preserved lemon? Tomato with lemon basil? Some tasters discussed the possible answers while others discreetly marked their guesses on the bingo boards. They then slid their blindfolds back into place and held out their hands for another round of mystery bites.
At the end of the evening, the taster who managed to score a line of correct matches on their bingo card won a bottle of New Deal Distillery’s Portland 88 Vodka.