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Feast For The Senses

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“Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.” — Garrison Keilor

One morning a few weeks ago, I was visiting a “friend” and we were discussing the need for breakfast. He was shuffling to the kitchen, but paused. “I know – how about I make us shrimp grits and a couple fried eggs?”

I couldn’t act on it – the day was already getting away from us – but that suggestion actually got me turned on.

Food is good. Food shared with people is better. But food shared with certain people under certain circumstances is fantastic. I’ve always done better with my sex life if my paramour is someone I can eat with, and cook with – or at least cook for. There was a guy once that I dated a couple times, and then tried cooking us dinner – making him one of my standby recipes, a grilled chicken leg marinated in a bright emulsion of wine and good olive oil with loads of rosemary and a shock of red pepper. But he balked at it, saying that he only ate meat if it didn’t look like it came from an animal. Burgers were fine, but not steak. Chicken nuggets, but not fried chicken.

That was our last date.

Mind, this doesn’t mean that I don’t respect food preferences or special diets or allergies or any other food quirks. Everyone has a food which they can’t or prefer not to eat, for medical or moral or aesthetic reasons. Mr. Shrimp Grits sometimes is plagued by dairy. I get indigestion from broccoli. A friend of mine eats gluten-free to alleviate fibromyalgia, and an animal-loving childhood friend of mine went vegetarian when she was only eight. I usually work with the food quirks of my family and friends, and believe that’s what you’re supposed to do; you support the people you care about and accept their peculiarities.

But what spooked me about the mystery-meat guy was that it felt like a fear of food. He wasn’t morally opposed to meat – he ate it, in certain forms – and it wasn’t a dietary thing. He just didn’t like the thought of where meat came from. The more processed the better. And if that was the case – who knows what else he may have balked at? Would he prefer cherry Jell-o to cherries? Wonder Bread to sourdough? Did he, like Homer Simpson, think “Purple” was a fruit?

And what did that say about how he may react to how I looked, or smelled, or tasted? No, best I cut things off – fussiness about food often goes with fussiness in bed. With sex, as with food, sometimes you gotta get earthy.

In his defense, though, there are cuts of meat I’ve not been all that quick to seek out myself just yet. Liver and kidneys are things still pretty much unknown to me – and except for some dabblings into chicken liver pate, I’ve not done much about that. I also keep telling myself I mean to try making pigs’ feet, but I still haven’t, even though I have two recipes for them. And I’m sure I could find a place that sold calves’ brains somewhere in the city, but am in no rush to confirm that.

But at least I am open to giving them a try.

Mr. Shrimp Grits is part Mexican, and was once waxing rhapsodic about some of his grandmother’s specialties, including something he called tacos cabeza. “Okay, I know ‘tacos’,” I asked, “but what’s ‘cabeza’?”

“‘Face’, basically,” he said. Technically, the word “cabeza” means “head,” but tacos cabeza uses the face bits of the cow – the cheeks, mostly.

And then he went on to talk about beef tongue tacos.

Tongue and cheeks are also things I’ve not yet tried and not been in a rush to try. But if I am led to that bridge, I already know I’ll cross it; just as I’ve been led to other culinary bridges by other guys in the past, and I’m pretty sure that as I’ve done all the other times, I’ll end up liking it. Just as I’m pretty sure Mr. Shrimp Grits would give some of the weirder corners of Irish cooking a whirl, like drisheen, the big black blood sausage from Cork. And it’s that willingness to at least try with food that I get on best with – to be open enough to let a new sense in.

Because sometimes that sense can combine with others. And if you are adventurous with your food, that speaks well to adventurousness elsewhere.

And besides – food is just plain sensual. One of the most erotic nights I spent involved an ex-boyfriend and a sack of cherries we picked up at a corner bodega. We were going to use them in something like a clafouti or a cobbler, but first had to pit them.

It started with us each nibbling a couple as we worked. Then we started feeding each other, slipping them one by one between each other’s smiling lips. Then kissing the sharp juice off each other’s smiles. Then licking it off each others’ fingers. And then we were racing for the bedroom, where we balanced the cherries in the bowl on a pillow and gorged on them and on each other, using the juice as body paint and eating them off each other’s stomachs. The sheets ended up ridiculously stained and we had to get up at 2 am and make sandwiches because we got hungry, but it was totally worth it. (I should probably have seen it as a red flag when I gave him a bunch of cherry-flavored candy that Valentine’s Day and he didn’t know why.)

Food is for sustenance. But food is also for pleasure. Take pleasure in food and I will follow you anywhere.

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