When did food get so complicated?
I wonder if food, like sex, has become needlessly complicated in the 21st century. I have taught several sexuality and literature courses over the last couple of years and once tried to engage my students in a conversation about what does sex really mean. To get the conversation started, I told them that at the core, sex is like shampoo directions: lather, rinse, repeat as needed. Yet, it is everything attached to sex (religion, morals, culture, etc.) that has made it so much more complicated. Food is like that, too. At the end of the day, food is just eat, chew, digest. Yet, at some point, expectations got so much higher and technique got more complicated making cooking and a food a far cry from readily recognizable.
In doing sexuality studies, I read the Kama Sutra-- the real book, not the westernized version that calls every position by the name of an animal or flower. The title Kama Sutra translates into the idea of sensual teachings. The story itself is more a drama of “Man about Town” than a sex guide. The story does include one book on biting and scratching techniques, types of oral sex (like “sucking the mango”), and a variety of positions. This section, though, is a really small part of the overall tale of a man going from single to married to finding courtesans and finally to becoming old and impotent. The myth of the Kama Sutra and the elaborateness and exoticism of the idea of the text far skewed the actual story.
In cookbooks and food trends, the myth of food preparation is getting almost to the epic level of the myth of the kama sutra. In my own life, I’ve gotten to the point in my cooking and food quests where I am losing track of how to cook honestly. When I make applesauce, I use ginger and cinnamon infused water. My coleslaw has tequila. My meat has to have a post-pan sauce reduction. Although I take pride in these things and really enjoy eating and making them, do they have more impact on my life than when my boyfriend made me fish tacos with a seasoning packet and a side of avocado, salsa, and cheese? No, not really. When you think back on the really good sex you’ve had in your life, titillation and taboo probably mark some of the other top 5, but in the best sex, I would probably bet you money, that over the top elaborateness wasn’t a factor. So, why is that we insist that the best meals of our life, have to be doing a high wire act while balancing spinning objects?
At the end of the day, does the ability to know the kama sutra make sex any better ... maybe. Does knowing how to caramelize or sous vide make a meal better, probably. But, at some point, when every night of sex has to involve a new position, then won’t it become ordinary. Conversely, when you eat too well what happens to your love of the basic? Do you lose it or just learn to appreciate it more?
I’m trying to remember to be a foodie who appreciates a great plate of pizzazz with a nice hint of wild technique on occasion. But, I’d like to also be a foodie who doesn’t ever stop loving a good missionary meal.
First Published for Technorati (July 14, 2011): When Did Food Get More Complicated Than Sex?