“C’mon in, take your clothes off, have a drink, what can I bring you to eat?”
When’s the last time you heard that? If you’re one of the growing crowd who love dining naked (in public), there’s a good chance you’ve had the opportunity to hear it more in the past few years than ever before. Dining in the buff—an experience reserved for nudist colonies, special at-home dinners, or even just standing over the sink alone while eating a ripe mango—is going mainstream.
In 2016, restaurants with a focus on nude dining opened their doors in London, Berlin, Melbourne, Japan, and Spain—along with a summer pop-up in NYC—followed by the first nude dining restaurant in Paris in 2017 and in Bristol in 2018.
Why is all this naked dining happening right now? “Nakations” (naked vacations) were rising in popularity back in 2014, according to Bon Appetit, which explores etiquette issues that may arise while eating dinner around people you don’t know while you’re all stark naked. In a 2016 article, The Australian Food News states that “naked dining has taken off across the world” and, in conclusion, they quote a J.Walter Thompson Intelligence report which says the phenomena is “perhaps connected with a consumer want for products and experiences considered ‘pure’ and ‘natural.’”
Several variations exist within the overall idea of “naked dining.” One of them is where everyone has to take their clothes off to dine in a common space—the process being part of a (hopefully) pleasant, experiential dining experience. Another concept is where one person (usually female, but not always as we’ll soon see) takes their clothes off and effectively serves as the table, with diners who are usually male and usually fully clothed, eating off her naked body. This experience brings question to mind about consumption, gender, power, class, and art. A well-known type of this form of dining in Japan is called nayotaimori. Surrealist Meret Oppenheim explored this in her 1959 performance piece titled “Spring Banquet,” which is sometimes also known as “Cannibal’s Feast.” Katy Perry does her own take on this in her 2017 music video “Bon Appetit”.
Sam Bompas of Bompas & Parr is undoubtedly one of the best-qualified people on the planet to discuss the naked dining trend. Among the studio’s many food-based projects and collaborations at the intersections of art, history, culture, fun, and food was the Anatomical Whiskey Tasting on Valentine’s Day 2015. Aged whiskies were consumed from the contours of (naked) bodies the same age as the drink. The event was different than other forms of this variety of “naked dining,” not only in the aspect of thinking of “age in whiskey” and “age of people’s bodies” and “maturity,” but also because the naked bodies were not all female. The performers and their bodies told a stories of their lives, and the guests who drank were also invited to disrobe, creating a more equalized space.
We asked Sam a few questions about naked dining in general and the Anatomical Whiskey Tasting in particular.
Chowhound: Can you tell us about your inspiration(s) for the Anatomical Whiskey Tasting and how long it took to plan the tasting?
Bompas: There’s one idea that percolated in Bompas & Parr’s collective consciousness for a little while, lying dormant while we considered the practical and ethical considerations of hosting an anatomical whisky tasting. This involved a fine, 25-year-old single malt paired with a 25-year-old performer, 30-year-old spirits with a 30-year-old and onwards, up to August, rare 50-year-old drams coupled with a half-century-old partner.
What makes it anatomical? The spirits were drunk from the natural contours of the performers’ bodies, each born the same year the liquid was put in a cask.
For the Anatomical Whisky Tasting, we were going for maximal intensity of experience. Some of the world’s greatest spirits were being matched with living vessels born the year the spirits were casked. Taste the glory, savour the sweat.
For each tasting we created an alcoholic oasis in the willing participant’s naval, or other handy bodily recess, with the spirits providing a thrilling libation for guests’ exploring tongues—their experienced organs of taste.
Chowhound: “Naked dining” seems to be trending somewhat at the moment. Do you have any thoughts on “why now” in particular?
Bompas: There is a real hunger for unusual dining experiences that delight the senses, coupled with a desire for authenticity. Naked dining seems to address both with a full frontal candor.
Chowhound: At your Anatomical Whiskey Tasting the performers and tasters removed their clothes. How do you think their tasting experience was different for them than if they’d been wearing clothing?
Bompas: There are gustatory and intellectual benefits to the practice of Anatomical Whiskey Tasting. The heat of the body raises the temperature of the whisky, helping to showcase the flavors in the spirit.
Each human vessel was asked to tell the compelling story of their life—the same length as that of the spirits sampled. This helped elevate the practice of body shots and allowed the guests to grasp the full magnitude of the years the spirit has lain in cask, slowly gaining in complexity and maturity.
We found the guests formed a uniquely intimate bond with the performers and with one another.
Chowhound: Have you heard anything about whether your audience at the event wished to do their own “naked dining” experience or some variety at home?
Bompas: Rumors abound detailing who is in and who is out. We can only speculate about how far the trend will go. Will prime ministers and presidents dare to bare?
Chowhound: Do you have any advice or tips for those who may wish to have their own “naked dinner” party at home?
Bompas: Lighting is crucial in any dining scenario and never more so than when everyone is naked. Candlelight flatters.
Be sure to make a ceremony of the disrobing moment and only take pictures if everyone is comfortable with it.
Have a plan in your head for how you’d like the night to pan out. Are you going for novel, humorous dining with a bit of body horror thrown in, or are you really looking for an all-out orgy? If you know the end game it is easier to choreograph the beats.
Hygiene holds the key to a successful event.
Chowhound: Any other thoughts on “naked dining” in general or on the experience of your event?
Bompas: Well we always embrace William Blake’s advice: “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”
Finally worth bearing in mind is that the sins we omit are worse than the sins we commit.
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.