by the Butterfly Gourmet
There is a sensuality to food. It hits all the pleasure centers much like that once in a lifetime, amazing lover; the one whose kiss matches perfectly with yours – tentative at first, then growing in intensity. Until your eyes roll back in your head. Your body just gives in to it as you think “oh, f*ck it!” and indulge. You surrender to the sheer, sinful pleasure and try to savor it so it lasts and lasts.
I had the great pleasure, many years ago, of dining at La Cote Basque with a woman who ate there often and knew the menu like the back of her hand. She ordered all the things she felt I simply must try. That one meal rocked my world and forever changed the way I look at food. As each dish arrived like a jewel; a truly seductive work of art bursting with flavor, her eyes twinkled with delight. She watched the look on my face and heard the sounds of ecstasy I was powerless to stop after each delectable bite. She nodded and her look said, “Welcome. Now you know”.
The smells were irresistible as this culinary lovemaking ebbed and flowed in waves of pleasure – the delicate ocean scent of the oyster as it slid into my mouth and down my throat, the cassoulet simply bursting with rich, multi-layered flavors, the earthiness of the truffle mashed potatoes.
But when I talk about the sensuality of food, it goes beyond the sexual. It also lives in the memory it invokes or the comfort it can provide; the excitement, the surprise. It touches all five of the senses.
Our memories of the things that happen in our lives are cemented in place and made clearer by the details – the scents, the tastes, the sounds.
I’ll always connect my mushroom lasagna with the memory of a dinner I had made for my ex. I had just discovered his infidelity, but still hadn’t said a word, not wanting to tip my hand just yet. I served him a piece and sang along to the radio playing nearby. “Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.” As the perfect rectangle of steaming lasagna slid onto his plate he looked up at me quizzically. “Does she know? She couldn’t. Is it safe to eat this?!”
Sitting at the dining room table as a kid struggling with a term paper and then hearing and smelling the sizzle of my mother in the kitchen sautéing some onions, the first step in so many dishes. The stress dissipated. I’m in this warm, cozy place. Maybe it will all be okay.
Then of course, there was the Sunday sauce. No matter what familial disagreements had gone on during the week, the spatters of red on the stovetop as it simmered volcanically, meatballs floating within, would (if only temporarily) wash them all away. THAT was the smell of family gatherings and laughter.
Or the trip my girls and I took to Paris – the first stop in the morning was a patisserie for strong coffee and something decadent. But then we noticed that literally everyone left with a baguette and all of them had a piece missing from the end. When in Paris . . . . We bought one and took turns ripping off pieces and munching as we walked toward our next adventure, all the while savoring the fluffy, yeasty, crusty warm morsels in our mouths.
Some things you just never forget and food in all its sensuality usually plays a role. Let’s take the time to linger and savor the sensuality of every moment together.