Food and Sex. . . Hungry?

There’s nothing new about the link between great food and sultry sex. It’s been around since the era of the ancient Romans, then flagged during repressive periods such as the Dark Ages and the 1950’s, but went through a glorious renaissance right around the time I was born.

Gael Greene, an outrageous and perversely reed-thin journalist began writing about food for New York Magazine in 1968 and subsequently launched the so-called "forkplay" genre. Her novel Blue Skies, No Candy, was like Erica Jong meets Julia Child — one big orgy, slippery with sauces and peaks of whipped cream. Body secretions and wine; kissing, tasting, and swallowing. Sating every hunger, those located in one’s stomach and those located between the legs.

Now in her late 60’s, Greene is still writing. Last year, her memoir Insatiable came out, in which she detailed (and I do mean detailed) her sexual encounters with Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood, the chef at Le Cirque in 1977, and a porn star named Jamie Gillis. In an endearingly sharp turn from haute cuisine and personal erotica, Greene also founded Citymeals-on-Wheels, a charity organization that
delivers more than two million free meals a year to New York City’s elderly
shut-ins.

Now, I’m no Gael Greene (for which my husband is thankful). But I recently wrote a novel about the life of an "accidental" food critic, sent it off to my agent, and received his feedback this week. Great sex, he said. I want more. The food’s important but that can slip into the background. All that hot, post-dinner lovemaking, that’s what we want. White Bordeaux, the sticky steaming meat of braised artichoke hearts, sandwiches of salty little capers with smoked salmon and lemon mayonnaise. Then to bed: taut naked skin, slick contact, whispered words and hard effort, the scents of garlic, wine, and dark chocolate still wafting through the room.

I’m working on all that.

Meantime, right here in Minneapolis, there’s a new generation of Greene-style food writers, including Alexis McKinnis who writes a sex column for vita.mn and an about-town foodie blog called Girl Friday. She’s been featured on Kare 11 and elsewhere, but the focus has been entirely — or so it’s seemed to me — on the salacious aspects of her life. And she’s been portrayed as some brand-new species of food writer, rather than someone who’s following in the tradition (fairly well, I might add — McKinnis’s blog is always current and well-written) of food-and-sex journalists from nearly 40 years ago.

Others are simply trashy, a mess of string bikini odes, scatalogical tales, and gluttony. What Greene understood, and I think McKinnis does, too, is that there’s a delicate balance between sex and food. You have to deliver a vicarious thrill, then back off and leave just a touch to the reader’s imagination. . . .or experience.