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Oral Fixations

[whitespace] erotic foods
Slippery When Wet: Erotic foods--ranging from those with aphrodisiacal properties to those bearing a strong resemblance to both male and female genitalia--have long been considered a means to a romantic end.

Food and sex have been willing and universal bedfellows since the glistening opening of history

By Christina Waters

WHEN ROMANCE raises its insistent head, our collective unconscious begins to murmur "chocolate." Candy--like oysters, caviar, pomegranates and asparagus--has been thought to have aphrodisiac properties for centuries. This human tendency isn't simply the promotional dream of confectioners around the globe--it turns out that the chemical composition of cacao, from which chocolate is made, is identical to changes occurring in the brain during the condition we will, for modesty's sake, refer to as "being in love."

That's why you reach for the M&Ms when you're in a blue mood--they give you the same biochemical lift as a long French kiss. And without all those germs.

But we'll return to chocolate in a minute.

Since the beginning of time--or rather the beginning of the good old days when good ol' boys worried about their sexual potency, i.e., the beginning of time--certain food substances have been touted as having arousing properties, as being conducive to prowess in lovemaking. Chocolate was definitely a front-runner in this regard, and Moctezuma was said to have consumed gallons of hot chocolate before heading toward his concubines' tastefully appointed apartments.

History doesn't record the vagaries of the Aztec leader's genitals, but--to paraphrase Wallis Simpson--a guy can never be too rich or too hard.

Other foods have long claimed special charms to fan the flaccid libido. Oysters, certainly, are another edible long suspected of aphrodisiac powers--as one culinary wag has noted, it was a brave man who ate the first oyster. But we protest this veiled misogyny and strongly suspect this to be a sexist remark of the lowest order.

It is true, though, that the moist, tumescent folds and fissures of the prized shellfish are--as an Ivy League classics scholar once observed--"very Georgia O'Keeffe." So it's the visual metaphor, the unmistakable resemblance to female genitalia, rather than some chemical properties, that has given the oyster its red-blooded reputation.

On the other hand, so rife is ancient literature with innuendo concerning scallops (upon which Venus, the goddess of love, perches in more than one celebrated painting), oysters and sea urchins that one has to suspect these delicacies of more than just symbolic power. Like all naughty foods, their suggestive shapeliness has helped keep them in the all-star aphrodisiac pantheon for centuries.

Naughty Spice

FOLK WISDOM about heightening the lovemaking process also has relied heavily upon the realm of spices and herbs. From the magic powers of cloves to the provocative properties of pepper, zesty additives have done much to spice up the bedroom. In the Middle Ages, spices like ginger and cinnamon were tossed into every dish--fish, fowl, meat and pastry.

At the medieval school of medicine in Salerno, Italy, a famous prescription noted:

    Within the stomach, loins and in the lung
    Praise of hot ginger rightly may be sung.
    It quenches thirst, revives, excites the brain
    And in old age awakes young love again.

Powdered rhinoceros horn, bear hormones, raw eggs and smoothies made of sheep embryos--there's almost nothing that humans won't ingest to recapture the randiness of youth.

The Bible records that Eve tempted Adam with an apple. When opened, apples, like pomegranates and figs, offer a spectacular glimpse into the pliant portals of female pulchritude. Filled with seeds symbolizing fertility, their soft, juicy interior is joyfully flirtatious (see D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love for a frank discussion of the anatomy of a fig).

But the apple isn't alone in being, well, fun to eat. There are plenty of items that give us great oral encounters--much of it heightened by having a willing companion in these edible adventures.

Think of the world of nastiness lurking within those supple fruits, the avocado, the papaya (all those seeds are strangely disturbing, no?) and the mango. We'll leave bananas to a separate phallic Hall of Fame that includes hot dogs and lollipops.

Then there are the pornographically (or at least graphically) shaped roots, tubers and vine vegetables--like the mandrake, the magical talisman of clairvoyants, shaped like a little man with two legs and a third one in between, which could be dried, ground into a powder and consumed as a love potion. Many a daikon radish has been the butt of blatantly X-rated fantasies and discussions, as have zucchinis--a much-maligned, poor relation of the aphrodisiac cosmology.

Good-natured and shamelessly penile, the zucchini squash is abundant and grows quite large if left to its own natural tendencies--a quality that has endeared it to country maids since the Paleolithic. Even a well-endowed carrot can bring a smile to any hormonally challenged shopper groping through the produce section.

We suspect that the huge popularity of soft, creamy Brie cheese during the Reagan White House years can be directly correlated to Nancy Reagan's admonition to "just say no." Creamy, sensuous cheeses are a big, voluptuous "yes!" in the face of a world constricted by dieting, deprivation and the Christian right.

Sensual Luxury

IN THE CELESTIAL hierarchy (or perhaps the prurient purgatory?) of arousing foodstuffs, luxury delicacies occupy the very top niche. All luxury foods seem to symbolize sinful indulgence, hence they are turn-ons of the highest order. Think of the exquisite pleasure of sea urchin roe hitting the tip of your tongue or that first spoonful of succulent crème brûlée descending your siloed throat.

Raw quail eggs,--so lightly salty, so thickly warm and viscous--they are arguably illegal in their candid orgasmic appeal. The feel of olive oil between your fingers--like licking honey from a bottom lip--can go a long way toward raising barometric pressure.

Having sexual fun with foods needn't be confined to ordering up some creamy pasta and consuming it slowly while gazing into your beloved's eyes across the table, a la Tom Jones. No, indeedy. You can whip up some nasty-but-safe sexual innuendo right in your own kitchen. Consider the sensuous possibilities of just kneading dough. Yeah. You get my drift. Sinking your hands into that pliant, yielding substance. Watching it begin to rise after you've caressed it with your hands. Uh-huh. Actually, if you're willing to forgo political correctitude--and we assume that if you've read this far, you sure as hell are--you can enjoy the same tactile impact by opening and fondling a can of Pillsbury Doughboy brown-and-serve rolls.

Many enlightened adults, even a few with college degrees, have found themselves feeling more than a little feverish during the simple process of stuffing a turkey and then rubbing it all over with melted butter.

Frosting a cake can definitely put you in the mood, especially if you concentrate on filling every single crack and crevice of the warm, firm layers. The soft tip of a freshly poured cone of frozen yogurt simply cries out to be sucked. Slowly.

We wish to remind our readers that it's OK to be fascinated with oblong items like Vienna sausages--or, in the case of big girls, with Italian and Polish sausages.

All of these earthy foods are time-honored oral fixations. Lolita knew that lollipops served a purpose that mommy wouldn't have approved of (but probably had indulged in once or twice herself). And every open-minded human being has given thanks--at least once--for the delightful shape and ripe, responsive texture of Our Friend, the banana.

See, you really can do this at home.

If you haven't had "fun" with food in the privacy of your own kitchen or hallway or bathroom for awhile, this Valentine's Day could just provide the opening--if you'll pardon the expression--you've been seeking.

Just make sure you've lowered the blinds and locked the door.

Bon appétit!

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From the February 12-18, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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