Sex and the Fat Man

I learned again last week that any blog, book, or article with the word "sex" in the title will be read. Not that this was news to me. But it’s a lesson that was reinforced by our nifty Popular Today list, which proved that sex sells better than anything except basketball. Which, when you think about it, is an interesting commentary. . . .

Now, I don’t know the Lakers from the Bears, but I do know sex. And I even have a legitimate reason to write about sex because my new novel is absolutely chock-full of sex. Really good sex. Only the person who’s having it happens to be an attractive but very, very large man — and I do mean that, in every way.

So you should know that I spent my entire morning searching for a photo of a sexy fat man for this blog. Finally, I gave up and e-mailed our web guru who spent her entire afternoon searching. And what did we find? Well, what’s above is the best by far.

I sorted through photos of fat men wearing baseball caps and stuffing enormous hamburgers into their mouths; clinical shots of obese men with pendulous fins of flesh hanging off their 1,000-pound bodies; pictures of sumo wrestlers in diaper-like garb. The closest I could come to a stud with a little meat around the middle was a stock shot of John Goodman, back in the Roseanne years. Yet — and I find this interesting — when I looked for cheesecake photos of hefty women they were in large supply.

What’s that all about?

Well, I’ll tell you what it’s all about. We women can talk about weight discrimination until we’re 90 (and probably will): the way men want stick-thin babes on their arms, women who look like heroin-addicted teenage boys and have collarbones that could kill. But suddenly, I’m not at all convinced that the problem isn’t really the other way around.

Men are out there looking at jpegs of zaftig females lounging on pillows among dozens of cats. They’re getting turned on by women with rounded Rubanesque tummies and thighs that meet. But women, it appears, are not at all interested in looking at photos of beefy, hairy, barrel-stomached men.

This has become a real hot button issue for me because my book is about a synesthetic 40-year-old food critic [nothing autobiographical there] who begins dating a smart, witty, reliable, thoughtful six-foot-six-inch 300-pound guy. (And no, for all of you who are wondering, my new six-foot-one-inch husband weighs a mere 203 dripping wet. . . .)

The plot of my novel hinges around the fact that in high-falutin’ foodie circles, fat is simply not acceptable. Oh, the people who attend restaurant openings may talk about food constantly, describing as if it were sex, longingly and with hungry eyes. But they don’t eat much. And they do not care, as a group, for people who do.

Mind you, I’m exempting real food lovers, most chefs (they eat constantly but they also move constantly,which is how they stay so thin), and those lusty gourmets of the Ruth Reichl type. What I’m talking about here are the socialites who attend every haute cuisine gala in town. When my heroine tries to bring her big man along as escort to one such event, he is openly derided for being not of the right type.

So the couple ends up instead frequenting a small Persian restaurant in suburban Chicago where he, a scientist, is treated with dignity and she, a food critic, is not even recognized. They fall in love over a dish called fesenjoon, which she describes this way:

The flavor reminded me of the mood rings we used to have when I was in grade school, with stones that would change color — supposedly depending upon the wearer’s emotional state, but really due to body temperature. Fesenjoon seemed to change in the air: its scent was of one thing and then another. Berries, citrus, bakery buns, roasted chicken, nuts, and earth.

I wrote this, however, before ever having tasted fesenjoon. I’d read about it. I knew the ingredients (chicken, pomegranate juice, walnuts, onion, and citron), so like a person who can read music and hear the melody in his head, I conjured up the scent and flavor of the dish based upon its recipe.

Last Friday, my normal-sized husband and I went to Shiraz Fireroasted Cuisine, on 60th and Nicollet, so I could taste the dish around which I’d based the whole crux of my book. Let me tell you, I was nervous. . . .

"What if I hate it?" I asked my husband in the car.

"You can write about something else," he said. "Send your editor the changes." He was nice enough, you’ll notice, not to point out that I might have tried fesenjoon before sending the book in.

Shiraz was, I’m sorry to say, nearly empty. We sat in a booth next to a miniature Persian rug that looked like a little flying carpet. The lights were low and the walls a warm rose color. It would have been a very pleasant place to be except that the noise of clattering dishes coming from the kitchen echoed through the cavelike space.

We ordered the fesenjoon (called fesenjan at Shiraz) and a ghormeh sabzy stew. Each came with a plate of white rice and lemon zest. I spooned a little of each on my rice and tasted.

"Do you hate it?" my husband asked.

I shook my head. But the truth is, I didn’t love it, either. The fesenjan was redder and sweeter than I’d expected, and the Shiraz version seemed to have no onion in it, nothing savory to counter the syrupy pomegranate sauce. The other dish, however, was extraordinary: chunks of rich, tender filet mignon with red beans in a thick gravy made of beef juice, herbs, and lime. It had a nearly South American flavor, mixed with the wondrous plain meaty taste of a rare Manny’s steak.

Speaking of Manny’s, they have fat men there. Lots of them, and they’re sexy, too. Forget the wifty, silk tie types who hang out at places where the food is vertical, these are guys who take their 4-pound steaks lying down.

So could someone get over there right now and take a picture. Please?