Roxanne Tellier: Food – The Last Temptation

RoxanneMmm … food. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. For some, food is a sensual pleasure, as delicious and desirous as sex. To others, it’s a necessity; they would be content if ever a pill was created that filled their nutritional needs without effort.

Gourmet or gourmand?  That is the question. To me, there is nothing so sexy as a man or woman who not only enjoys good food, but revels in all its glories; heaven on the palate, a visual treat, and a tactile experience. To me, there is little as delightful as a feast for both the eyes and the stomach. Good food, in all of its 3D wonderment, warms the cockles of my heart, quickens my breath, and eases the tensions of life.

Oh yes, I know. Everything in moderation, and if I ever figure out how to do that, I’m on it! But the warring culinary DNA factors in my blood and heart crave lashings of French cooking, with a shanty Irish reliance on carbohydrates swimming in butter, and a British sensibility that encourages such brutal delicacies as steak and kidney pudding. I love food. No – I am in lust with good, honest, fresh, beautifully prepared, delicately seasoned, lovingly plated and brilliantly presented food.

pomegranateI grew up when food was only available in season, or if out of season, just in the grocers for a very small window of time. Pomegranates, black cherries, tangerines … fruits of the gods! And we snapped up these delicacies, pressed them to our breasts, and rushed them home to be enjoyed in the loving spirit in which they had been grown.

Dragon FruitTimes have changed, and for the most part, I applaud the growers of the world, who have brought new sensations to our eyes and taste buds. I approached my first Dragon Fruit with apprehension, but fell to its creamy goodness. I still have yet to cook an artichoke, so fearful am I of bruising its delicate heart. I weep for the people of South America, whose primary staple grain and protein, quinoa, has fallen afoul of North American foodies and vegans whose lust for the stuff is now one of the two main causes of deforestation in Brazil. Oh brave new world that has such wonders in it!

The flip side of this global food consciousness is, of course, the prolific rise of fast food – an abomination in my eyes – and a voraciousness to feed the gaping maws of people who apparently no longer have an OFF switch on their hunger. A visit to the grocer the day after a holiday will have you convinced that we’ve just been alerted to an impending weather disaster, zombie apocalypse or nuclear holocaust. Carts crashing into each other, shoppers sweep the aisles clean of all available food stuff. What? The shops are closed tomorrow? I’ll need two carts then!

Nigella LawsonOn the television, trained chefs compete for our attention, in an orgy of food porn. From the likeable Jamie Oliver, intense and so well meaning, to the ravings of kitchen madman Gordon Ramsey, to the ‘en garde!’ insanity of Iron Chef, or the folksy ramblings of now diabetic Paula Deen,  you can scarcely spend an hour in the 500 channel universe without being reminded that  you’ve not eaten in at least fifteen minutes.  Nigella Lawson is embraced and acknowledged as the courtesan of TV food; although neither a trained chef nor cook, her softly curving figure and clearly erotic attraction to the food she prepares seduces the viewer into a relaxed and loving acceptance of such ingredients as goose fat and Riesling.

Television has a love/hate relationship with food. They will acknowledge family dinners, deify turkeys, and commiserate on the pain of actually StrawberriesCreamspending time with relations, but food as a sensual experience is only acknowledged in terms of those poor individuals who suffer from food addiction and obesity. Just about the only place you’ll see food used erotically is in the soaps, where Days of Our Lives stalwarts John and Marlena can be counted on to have an in-bed strawberries and cream romp every 12-16 months.

Film used to understand the connection between food and sex.  In 1963, an eating scene in Tom Jones, between Albert Finney and Joyce Redman, brutalizing a chicken and then slurping oysters, before culminating in a frankly sexual devouring of apples, had movie goers gasping.

Alan Bates describes the best way to eat a ripe fig in Women in Love (1969). Phew! “Like a prostitute, the bursting fig makes a show of her secret.”

In 9 ½ Weeks, Kim Basinger and  Mickey Rourke play sensually with jello, pasta, grapes, cherries and strawberries and the surprise of an jalapeno until her face is sticky with juices and she begs, with mouth agape, for more. Not very subtle, but very effective.

Babette’s Feast, (1987,) a film based on a story written by Isaak Dinesen, shows the healing properties of glorious, delicious food on a religious community divided by fear of strangers. Big Night, (1996,) Stanley Tucci’s film about a New Jersey restaurant, exalts in the remarkable healing powers of a shared meal.

Is there a right way to eat ramen, that glorious noodle soup? Why yes – and Tampopo  (1985) will show you how to give respect to the ingredients. “Appreciate its gestalt. Savor the aromas. Jewels of fat glimmering on the surface. Schinachiku roots shining. Seaweed slowly sinking. …” More than a haiku to the food, it is total appreciation. There’s also a nod to drink, with the sipping of sake from a woman’s navel.

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” Goodfellas – and what a celebration of food!  “Pauly … had this wonderful system for doing the garlic. He used a razor, and he used to slice it so thin that it used to liquefy in the pan.”

La Grande Bouffe is nothing more than a story of four friends who set out to eat and screw themselves to death in the French countryside. I’ll spare you the visuals on this one. Nor will I include scenes from the shocking waste of butter in Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider’s romp in Last Tango in Paris. I’ll leave that to the aficionados to find.

No Reservations (2007), stars Catherine Zeta-Jones as a sexy chef who makes her puppy dog underling sit up and beg for treats.

You’ll never feel the same about quail after watching this scene from Like Water for Chocolate (1993) Tita uses her suitor’s gift, seasoned with her blood and longing, to make quail in rose petal sauce. Her passion is communicated through the delicious food to Pedro, her potential lover, while her haughty mother dines in salty disapproval. Eventually, her heat causes an outhouse to erupt into flames.

In the similarly themed Chocolat (2000), Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche enjoy the magic of lovingly handmade chocolate candies. In Woman on Top (2000) Penelope Cruz, who plays a chef, has phallic-looking chile peppers rubbed on her luscious lips.

You remember the shower scene, but do you remember Jennifer Beals devouring a lobster tail in a seduction scene in Flashdance (1983)

For an aperitif …Uma Thurman’s wine drinking with Maria de Medeiros in Henry and June (1990) will give you a new appreciation for the restorative properties of vino. “I’ve done the vilest things – the foulest things – but I’ve done them… superbly. I feel innocent now.”

For so many of us, we’re at the point where, for health or dietary reasons, we can only look longingly at a delicious spread, and whimper into our hands.  Before political correctness, weight gain, national health and propriety wipe Burgersthese elemental pleasures from our memories, bite into a ripe strawberry, bury your nose into a bushel of fresh tomatoes, nibble at the edges of a freshly cut pastrami or hold a mouthful of champagne against your taste buds, reveling in the effervescence. Enjoy. That’s the real meaning of “You Only Live Once.”

= RT =

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

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DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king – and that was just yesterday’s to do list. Tomorrow she starts on the letter Q.  

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