When I began this blog, I assumed that there must be books centered on women, food, and sex, but I never guessed that we would read one for our class. I was therefore really excited to read Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel and to read all of the steamy food scenes. In the book, food and sex are linked in multiple ways. The most obvious way is in how the main character, Tita’s, cooking acts as an aphrodisiac, but food is also associated with sex in that it is a way of transmitting or displaying passion. Additionally, Esquirel shows that food itself can even be sexy.
The quail in rose petal sauce Tita makes from the roses her lover, Pedro, gives her have a huge effect on everyone who made it. Tita’s sister, Gertruda, is especially affected. She becomes so hot with desire that when she tries to cool herself in the shower, it catches fire. Her naked self runs from the flaming shower into the field where a general on horseback senses her passion and comes to her, sweeps her off her feet, and they have sex while riding the horse – all from Gertruda eating Tita’s quail in rose petal sauce.
I looked into whether rose petals are actually considered a food and they are! Apparently they can have a range of flavors – from sweet to tart to spicy! The recipes I found from ehow.com (http://www.ehow.com/how_2297120_eat-rose-petals.html) had recipes for making rose petal cubes, rose petal salad, whipped cream with rose petals, rose petal salad dressing, and, what sounded most delicious to me, rose petal butter.
Another website I found (http://suzette.typepad.com/the_joy_of_soup/2003/05/rose_petal_reci.html) had more complicated recipes:
Rose Petal Sandwiches
Rose Petal Drop Scones
Rose Petal Cookies
Rose Petal Tea
Rose Petal Jelly
Chilled Pear and Rose Petal Soup
Linguine and Rose Petal Pesto
Grilled Chicken with Rose Petal Mango Sauce
Rose Petal Jam Tarts
Green Tea and Rose Petal Popsicles
Rose Petal Ice Cream
Rose Petal Wine
They sound very romantic. I wonder how amorous they make their eaters. The websites don’t mention anything about that, though they did suggest it makes whoever cooks them feel ‘girlie.’ I did find out that it is important not to use store-bought roses. You should grow your own or buy them at farmer’s markets where no pesticides are used.
In Like Water for Chocolate, Esquirel also showed that cooking food, in addition to being an aphrodisiac, can also be a way of expressing sexual desire . While Tita’s passion for Pedro is physically played out with Gertruda and the general, it is shown to Pedro through the food. She cooks with him in mind every night and lives for the complements he gives her food. Their love, for a while, is exclusively shared through the exchange of food.
Finally, some of the lines in the book describing food are very sensual. In describing the last lonely chili and walnut sauce left on a platter, Esquirel writes, “… which contains every imaginable flavor; sweet as candied citron, juicy as a pomegranate, with the bite of pepper and the subtlety of walnuts, that marvelous chili in walnut sauce. Within it lies the secret of love, but it will never be penetrated, and all because it wouldn’t be proper” (p 58). This could almost be the description of a woman rather than a chili. It “wouldn’t be proper” because it’s impolite, even in our lives, to eat the last piece of food on a plate. The metaphor here is that Tita is the last lonely chili pepper that Pedro will not penetrate and find the secrets of love because it wouldn’t be proper.
Esquiel even made the act of nursing sexy. Tita, who was not allowed to have a child of her own, miraculously developed the ability to nurse her nephew when his mother was unable. When Pedro, the baby’s father sees Tita nursing her child, he and Tita have a very sensual moment.
There are other books and films that also connect food to sex. I recently watched the movie, Today’s Special, about an Indian sous-chef in a French restaurant named Samir who hates Indian food and quits his job when he doesn’t get a promotion, but then is made to give up his career and run his father’s Indian restaurant. He originally didn’t get the promotion of head chef at the new restaurant his boss was opening because, as his boss, the head chef, explains, the guy who did get the job (someone much less experienced than the Samir) gives him a boner when he watches him cook. He asks Samir, where is my boner? But Samir eventually turns the restaurant into a delicious hit with the help of a knowledgeable taxi driver who tells him her cannot just cook from his mind. He has to cook from his stomach, heart, and penis as well. He has to feel passion for the food – it’s like being in love, the taxi driver explains. In addition to making the restaurant famous, Samir also falls in love with a beautiful line cook who helps him out with his Indian restaurant, all in the midst of cooking together.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris is a famous story (a book then a movie) of food as aphrodisiacs. Interestingly, as with Like Water for Chocolate, it too utilizes magical realism. Vianne opens a chocolate shop in the reserved French village she moves to and the chocolate begins to change the villager’s lives, enhancing their passion and joy of life. The things that happens to the villagers from the chocolate are somewhat exaggerated, which makes it magical realism. Vianne eventually falls in love, through the exchange of chocolate, with a river gypsy (played by Johnny Depp).
The book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (now also a movie) has three sections. The first section, the one to which “Eat” refers, takes place in Italy. Gilbert travels throughout Italy eating her way out of her confused and trapped state of mind after she realizing she does not want to have children or be with her husband anymore. The exquisite food helps her gain her confidence, sense of joy, and her sense of sexiness back. Her time in Italy concludes with her buying a bunch of expensive lingerie in a boutique shop, knowing that the only person she is buying it for was herself.