Like Porn, But Better

I have a wonderful group of friends who all love to eat. Many of us love to cook. One of us who doesn’t love to cook listened to the rest of us debating recipes one day and, after a fashion (by “fashion” I mean “hours spent intermittently talking about recipes”) exclaimed, “This is like porn to you people!”

Although I’d never thought about that before, she’s totally right. Food is a highly sensual experience. That’s how it should be; if you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you’ll notice that food and sex are both basic needs. That’s because they’re fundamental for us to survive.

We humans are pretty good at the sex part; we’ve got it down pat. The food part? We’re horrible at it. Oh, we’re good at eating. We’re just not good at eating well. I’m not talking about proper nutrition, although that plays a factor. I’m talking about the experience of eating. We’re a fast food society, and while I love the occasional Big Mac with a shameful passion, a Happy Meal isn’t the same thing as a real meal. It’s not an experience; it’s not a celebration of food.

Food should always, always be a celebration. Somewhere along the way, we forgot that. I’m not about to start preaching to you, but remember this: people used to have to hunt and gather and cook every meal, and they had no guarantee they’d find food every day, so when they sat down to a meal, it was a celebration.

It still should be.

That’s why we’re doing this. I’m half of this wonderful endeavor; Tiffany is the other half. We have two things in common: curly hair (although hers is curlier and prettier, but that may have something to do with the fact that she runs a salon for curlies) and a passionate respect for a well-prepared meal. We’ve both noticed that, while Americans love our food, not everyone understands food and how to prepare a meal.

Let me tell you the secret to cooking: you have to love food. That’s it. The rest you can learn. Baking is a science, simply chemistry, but cooking? You have to have passion. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know a skillet from a saucepan or a roux from a reduction. If you love the texture and taste and smell and sight of food, you can learn to cook. It is, despite what pretty much every other cookbook, blog, and television show wants you to believe, intuitive.

Cooking is about passion. Comparing it to sex isn’t a joke or a catchy way to get your attention; it’s absolutely true. Both those things are necessary for the survival of the species; we are hardwired to want sex and food (and a few other basic needs, but we aren’t teaching a psych class here.)

That’s why we’re calling this “Aphrodite’s Hearth.” To the Greeks, Aphrodite dealt with matters of love and sex; everyone knows that. People forget she was also the goddess of beauty and pleasure.

I love to eat, but even more than that, I love to cook. My better half, El Cap, grew up in a meat and potatoes culture. Food, for him, was just that: food. Then he met me, and he learned pretty quick that I love everything about a meal: preparing, eating, savoring.

“You eat with all your senses,” he once told me.

So should you.

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