For as long as human kind existed, food played an important role in the art of seduction. Food prepared to increase sexual desire, or at least the anticipation thereof, has to be shared with someone.
For eating it by oneself it is deprived of the aesthetics of sexual desire, sensuality and romantic love. In short, there is no romantic dinner for one.
In the act of seduction the intent is clear: the instigator seeks to go beyond him or herself, and form a communion with another.
Plato once said “the true order of going…to the things of love, is to use the beauties of earth as steps…to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair actions, and from fair actions to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty”.
Imbedded in Plato’s idea, is the understanding that something beautiful and sensual is something that speaks to and through all senses.
Thus, the chef-as-seducer has to understand the human senses and how they contribute to our amorous pursuits. Let us then consider them one by one.
Smell. Compared to other animals, our ability to smell is under-developed due to our upright postural locomotion and movements. Yet, it is deeply rooted in the ancient limbic part of our brains, and tends to permeate our reception of stimuli by the other senses. The limbic part of the brain is directly linked to emotions, and if stimulated, evokes affective recall and even visual imagery, and so odor is linked to past experiences.
This also means that love and smell are inseparable. In the pursuit of amorous endeavors, the chef-as-seducer cannot ignore pheromones, the chemical substances that cause one human being to react to another. Thus, when planning a seductive table find and spread the smells that would urge courtship and romance, but take precise care not to have them overpower the flavour of your food. Just a few freshly cut violets or roses should suffice.
Touch. It is through our largest and most complete organ, our skin, that we experience contact with the world around us in the most direct manner. By touching those we love or like we increase the production of oxytocin, the “love-hormone”.
But let us not forget: although the anticipated and desired outcome of the seductive meal is physical touch, there are important elements that would be touched during the course of the meal: the glasses, the cutlery, the tablecloth and napkins, and, of course, the food itself. Be sybaritic – present only opulent luxury in pursuit of outrageous pleasure.
Hearing. Hearing elevates our ability to communicate and form relationships. Social bonds are indefinitely more assured with hearing than without it. So the chef-as-seducer will use it. Carefully and purposefully, to promote controlled arousal. For he or she understands that we listen with our whole bodies, not just our ears.
But know what music the target of your desire prefers. Bill Wythers or Billie Holiday. Frank Sinatra or Edith Piaf. Maybe Marlene Dietrich. As long as it promotes emotional moods pertinent to erotic goals.
Vision. They say you eat with your eyes first. Thus, take care and lay the food on the plate with precision and care. Like the skillful artist, the chef-as-seducer will regard the plate as a barren canvass ready to receive the creations of their erotic creations. Each carrot, artichoke and fig has to be sliced with precision to reveal its true potential to seduce.
And each slice of meat placed to highlight its intimate relation to the buttered potato and to make their potential union an obvious affair. Do not make the object of your desire squint in the harshest light nor inflate their gentle pupils with the brightest of colours. Rather light a gentle candle for warmth and comfort.
Taste. It goes without saying that with food that offends even the harshest of palates, even the most sumptuous seduction is bound to fail. With more than 10,000 taste buds foul flavours will be detected and with that all potential for a conclusion of the erotic kind will dissipate. Taste becomes flavour through its linkage with the other senses and hence the ancient Greeks’ advice to the chef-as-seducer to ‘keep your organs, sense and taste in proper order”.
The taste of foods ultimately becomes subjective symbols for relationships, memories and ruminations about love and sex. It involves thinking, examining and ultimately judging the positive or negative nature of whomever or whatever provided the stimulus. So make sure you and your food are remembered for the right reasons.
Specific ingredients have long been praised for their perceived value as aphrodisiacs. Oysters, honey, nuts, bird’s nests, chocolate and many more food stuffs are revered for their perceived sensual qualities by lovers and chefs alike.
Research into the perceived aphrodisiac qualities of specific food-stuffs and ingredients are inconclusive in their findings.
Yet, on one element the findings have borne fruit. For normal healthy individuals eroticism is a state of mind through which all senses and the brain are stimulated. Thus, a healthy flavourful meal, eaten in a pleasing and relaxing atmosphere with the right company, provides the best chance for an erotic outcome. Oysters or chocolate alone are not enough.
I have chosen this week’s recipe because it is loaded with aphrodisiacs: capers, pistachio nuts, almonds, parsley, eggs and artichokes. It is baked and served in a hollowed-out bread.
Now, all you have to do is call the target of your desire, lay the table, cut the flowers and select the music.
But just before you get busy may I remind you of the importance of the task ahead. In the ancient scripture of Taittiriya Upanishad it says,
“From food indeed do creatures come to birth,
whatever [creatures] dwell on earth.
Then again by food they live,
And again pass into it in the end.
For food is the chief of beings,
Hence it is the elixir of all”.