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Hunger Artist

Zen and the art of food-sex

By Gretchen Giles

The gorgeous furred silk of a man's belly and the dark, lovely hollow a neckline reveals when a woman bends down all make me hungry. Not starving for smooches, but longing for foodstuffs that ooze and goop, that add a touch of sweet to the savory, that are made to be eaten with just fingers or licked from a thigh.

The distinctive physical pleasures of food and sex go together in human history as naturally as do roasted mastodon and cave-born babies. Now that we're presumably somewhat evolved, we can choose the hunt and control the babies. This is when the real pleasures of food-sex arise.

Food-sex is a Zen concept, if you will, a koan instructing that good food shared well is just as important to intimacy as good lovemaking well shared. In today's lesson, food-sex is not that meal designed to sweep a potential love-mate off his or her feet and into your consensual clutches for the very first time. Today's lesson, in fact, is about heightening the gustatory pleasure of that someone who is already well-swept.

Applying the rules of the perpetual picnic, your adventure consists of anything you and your lover both enjoy, delicacies not usually indulged, dishes made ahead, and fresh green things straight from the ground.

Garlic, at least in my small, rosy world, is essential. So, too, are several uninterrupted hours, a reliable source of heat, and the joyous musical religion of Al Green. Texture, shape, and consistency are important, but dress is strictly casual--just one large linen napkin will do.

As with any feast, preparations must be made. Even that impressive soul who rises from the rumple to whip together a postcoital treat has probably thought about such a graceful arising well in advance--or should have. As necessary as the prelove rituals of bathing and brushing are the mundanities of shopping and cooking.

But not everything must be cooked by you. After all, this is about sensual swoon, not Betty Crocker. Simply buying little truffley treats is often just enough; a good loaf of bread and a ripe cheese marry well; a grocer's roast chicken and deli pasta salad will suffice; and yes, there should always be enough wine.

Allowing time to be thoughtful and unhurried only adds to the anticipation. Your Zen-influenced boink-repast should ideally consist of things that can wait and mellow until you're ready for them. Risotto, that stir-stir-stir pretty pet of the rice family, is, for example, a poor choice.

However, cheese tortellini that have been cooked to plumpness, well-drained, and then coddled in a bowl with the rough chop of three Roma tomatoes--seeds and all--a handful of fresh slivered basil, a few pressed garlic cloves, the grate of fresh Parmesan cheese, and a three-to-one bath of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, is an excellent choice. Salted and peppered to taste and left to infuse while covered on the table, this dish is always ready when you are.

Similarly, asparagus that have been washed and then dried in a clean dish towel can wait for your attentions. Break the ends just where they wish to bend--never force your edible koan to do anything it doesn't want to. Arrange on a cookie sheet or pizza pan, drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt (table salt is fine). Roll these wonderfully green, phallic stems about on the pan until they're somewhat evenly covered in oil. Broil for about seven minutes, taking the pan out half way through to shake the asparagus around for even cooking. Remove from the broiler, squeeze half a fresh lemon over the stalks, and arrange on a plate. They'll still be there when your fancy finally produces a taste for produce.

It has somehow held our collective romantic imagination that chocolate-dipped strawberries connote almost unscalable heights of the la-ti-dah, but how many of us actually know how simple these are to make?

Lean closer, and I shall reveal that the large, seeded nipple of a strawberry need merely be dipped in the melt of a bag of ordinary semi-sweet chocolate chips that have been heated in a double-boiler. (In my humble abode, double-boiler refers to a pan of hot water with an old glass bowl set atop it because it happens to fit). Dip your strawberries in the chocolate, swirl, and place on a piece of wax paper. Instant elegance! Crunch and juice and sweet on a plate.

This also works for dried apricots, almonds, banana chunks, raw tuna, nasturtium heads, or any other thing you could possibly ever wish to dip in chocolate.

I often think that the best part of being divorced, other than the glory of simply being no longer married, is Dad's Weekend, that infrequent event when the children's father takes them away to troll the malls, watch marathon bouts of TV, and munch fried pies, just five for a dollar. Then, the tyranny of a regular dinner no longer looms, and my lover and I can be fueled solely by exactly that which pleases us best.

This bed-heavy freedom is usually sustained by store-bought goodies that I greedily purchase in lieu of saving for a new car or a down payment on a house.

The local fancy store barbecues meat on weekend nights, so I get a hot, rare slab. Next in the basket go a stout loaf of fresh Campagna bread, a wedge of stinky-ripe Cambonzola cheese, and a container of cured green olives.

Fresh scallions are later washed and shaved into thin, curly sticks. A simple salad is quickly tossed from lettuce cannily washed on Thursday and a vinaigrette mixed up while boiling farewell oatmeal that morning for the children.

Berries or cold grapes? Ripe fragrant cantaloupe to wrap with prosciutto? Such dilemmas. Chocolate, the dark, thick kind that must sometimes be chopped with a cleaver, not that waxy type put out by the good folks in Pennsylvania, is essential.

When considering this lesson, it's only natural that your food be as naked as you are. This is your life, your spring, your lips and teeth and tongue and fingers and mouth.

Your hunger.

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From the February 7-13, 2002 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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