Food Notes & Tousim 02/01/2012

Feuerbach, mixed salad, eroticism and sex

Fruit and vegetables deserve devotion and admiration, and they have always inspired artists, scholars and even scientists. Every fruit of nature is a nature masterpiece in miniature, unique for form, size and color


Paola Cerana

What if Feuerbach was right? What if we actually were what we eat?
The topic is not that vague as it might see. First, I am a vegetarian, eat little and am not gluttonous. Then, although a vegetarian, I am very much interested and in love with cooking and I love the pleasures of the table.

I am convinced that an infinite universe of tastes, smells and aromas lies in products that Mother Earth generously offers daily. I also think that moderation is a virtue and not a defect when savoring primordial sensations. A virtue which, together with curiosity, slowness, and fantasy (and maybe the right company) amplifies and emphasizes emotions, rather than humiliating them.

Fruit and vegetables well deserve devotion and admiration, since they have always inspired artists, scholars and even scientists.
First of all, they are living, sensual creatures, with wonderful shapes and soft to touch. Each fruit of Nature is a masterpiece in miniature, unique for shape, size and color. There is no peach, fig, carrot or tomato equal to another, if you think of it. And almost all, if not all, dialog with the manifold and complex nuances of human appetite, making our mouths watering, but also evoking – often unequivocally – eroticism and sex.

It is not by chance that, in ancient times, the statue of Priapo, Aphrodite’s seductive son, was placed fiercely in gardens. The symbol was often reduced, or amplified, according to tastes, to the essential, that is an energetic phallus which ruled proudly over cultivations.

The inspiring and symbolic value of the vegetable kingdom is thus immense: from the mythology, to religious traditions, from art to poetry and literature and up to our daily language. The myth of Paris’ apple of discord, the fig which was certainly eaten by Adam and Eve (as we may deduce from the leave of this fruit which they used to cover their nudity). And then, again, it is well known that the strawberry represents Frigga, goddess of love in Northern mythology, and the Virgin Mary in Christian symbolism.

In painting, one name would be enough: Caravaggio, with his wonderful still lives. And what can we say of Flemish painters and of Arcimboldo’s anthropomorphism? Literature is abundant with examples too. For instance, Isabel Allende’s “Afrodita” offers a tasty and spicy culture. Oral sex was often defined “forbidden fruit” in erotic literature, although this sense of decency makes smile today.

Even the Song of Songs, a masterpiece of sensuality, praised the association between fruit and pleasure of sex and love. “With candies made of grape and apple, sustain and resuscitate me. I die of love”, says Sulamit to Salomon. And again: “Oozing honeycombs are your lips, oh wife, milk and honey in your mouth, like a Lebanon of aromas, the smell from your dress” Salomon sings to his loved one, foretasting the warm honey and ground almonds on the languid body of his woman.

Therefore, there is no doubt that fruit and vegetables have always stimulated imagination. Both inspire to share, to be creative, and to love games! This is why several vegetables and fruits are nowadays still considered as aphrodisiac food, maybe for their allusive shape, or for their softness, or hardness, or for their pulp, for their sweetness, for their juice, basically for any feature which is connected to the sexual act.

Cooking games, like erotic ones, prefer phallic and round shapes (like zucchinis and peaches), pulpy and humid consistencies (like mangoes and tomatoes), delicately sensual colors, which recall the turgid parts of the body (figs and pomegranate, for instance) or more intense tones which recall obscurity (black olives, eggplants or plums) , and persistent aromas (passion fruit, which I love so much, or, garlic, why not!).

Hence, being vegetarians is not boring. Each day, each season offers its pleasures, even with some surprise. I recently read that one of the most appreciated, most common, and, guess what, most commonly associated to sexual pleasure – banana – is object of a curious project. Somebody has been studying how to produce less curve and straighter bananas. The reason is to make easier and convenient their transportation, enabling to put more bananas in the same box. I think it would be a sin to disrupt the natural shape of a banana, smiling and perfect even when it is imperfect, with its small bumps and moles. Not only I think it is more beautiful and more original, but also more ergonomic and funny. I wonder whether the same destiny might be under way for tomatoes, eggplants or pears! They would certainly inspire cubist painters, but not likely poets and lovers!

In conclusion, not only we enjoy the infinite universe of flavors, smells and aromas that Mother Earth gives us, but we also take advantage of her memory to enrich our soul with artistic emotions and to color our daily language. Think of how many expressions we steal from the vegetable world to express how we feel or what we man in a specific moment: the fruit of sin, the worm-eaten apple, empty as a pumpkin, red as a pepper, cherry mouth, pear shaped breasts, potato nose, almond eyes, peach like skin,…
Therefore, if Feuerbach was right, meat lovers shall not be surprised if sometimes they will fear like a rabbit every once in a while, resigned as a chicken or sweet as a veal. In my case, I will be able to only feel the joy of the radish, the exuberance of the strawberry, the passion of mango, or worse, the confusion of mixed salad eaten the night before.