If food be the music of love…

In a scene I’m writing, I’ve just had to stop my couple from cooking and eating together. Yes, put the chopper down people and back away from that carrot. I had to give them a different ‘warm-up activity’ to do instead. Not because there isn’t a strong affinity between food and sex, and indeed love, but because I’ve realised how often throughout the book this ravenous duo, and other partnerships, are at it. Chowing down, that is. And I don’t use the term as a euphemism.

Food is the perfect association for sex. It’s a major pleasure, one hungers for it, may crave it, and is satisfied by it. It can symbolise and it can fuel the sexual appetite. In her article The Relationship Between Sex and Food, Maryanne Fisher notes chocolate, avocados, and almonds as purported aphrodisiacs. Chocolate so dark, voluptuous, and rich (reputed to have been banned from monasteries in the 17th century); soft and slippery avocado; almonds with their distinctive bitter aroma; and bananas with their, er, characteristic shape. Fisher notes the dietary characteristics that link food with sexual desire, but most of all, we know the link lies in the sensuality of food, in its many parallels and reminders of human relations. From the ripe-to-bursting figs in a Renaissance painting, it’s been the ultimate metaphor.

Food can be honey-sweet, sticky, soft, or as hard and as phallic as you please, and not least hot and spicy. It can denote growing intimacy between lovers as they cook and eat together, or demonstrate caring if they cook for one another. My hero also uses food to show his twin cultural backgrounds to his love.

Nothing new: eating and sex, two absolute necessities for our survival. One of the most famous literary scenes featuring ‘food as foreplay’ is in Fielding’s 1749 comic novel The History of Tom Jones, between Tom and Mrs Waters – though the reputation of the vignette is truly sealed by Tony Richardson’s film version. The scene describes the hero’s “vast piece of beef” that makes his dining companion sigh so soft, so sweet, so tender…Fielding leads the reader to the conclusion that all ended well for the couple, and that, behind closed doors, Mrs Waters “enjoyed the usual fruits of her victory.”

Pasta: slippery when wet

Thinking of our modern, multicultural society, is there a more sensual food than pasta? The silken texture echoing that of the skin, the slipperiness when sauce is added. Think of Nora Ephron’s Rachel bringing linguine, unctuous with tomatoes, to her lover in her recipe-laden novel Heartburn. (And how later she throws a key lime pie in his face as their relationship deteriorates). As in Tom Jones, the movie Chef lets us know what kind of sex Jon Favreau’s Casper will have with Scarlett Johansson’s Molly without a single garment being shed, because she watches him prepare pasta aglio e olio for her, fascinated by the sight of his strong hands working the smooth dough.

Which brings us to another point, one often made: nothing is sexier than a man who can cook. Well, perhaps not ‘nothing’, but it is pretty sexy. Think of the skills on show, not to mention the implications. A man who can stir, fold, knead, roll, successfully handle tools (and I do use the term as a euphemism). One who can work with artistry, and with attention to detail. Wouldn’t you consider going to bed with that person? And the appetite. Okay, not the sight of a man wolfing a burger in front of the TV, but opposite you, eating with relish, the occasional, knowing meeting of eyes… Then there’s the caring, the affection of someone putting a self-cooked meal in front of you.

I’ll tell you, just writing this makes me feel like going off to get a snack.


Maryanne Fisher, The Relationship Between Sex and Food, in Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/loves-evolver/201102/the-relationship-between-sex-and-food, retrieved 24 March 2018.

Nora Ephron, Heartburn, originally published in 1983.

Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, first published in 1749

Chef, written and directed by Jon Favreau, 2014.

9 thoughts on “If food be the music of love…

  1. Reblogged this on Libre Paley and commented:

    Whilst an enthusiastic reader, I don’t have any ‘collections’ of books (and am not exactly in the income bracket to be a keen collector of first editions). Except, that is, for my small collection of cookbooks. This was started, as collections often are, quite by accident. There’s a load from the 1960s and 70s, The Cranks Recipe Book, the original Moosewood Cookbook, and my prized original 1972 copy of Anna Thomas’s The Vegetarian Epicure (I love the way she casually mentions “This two-hours late course is especially recommended if grass is smoked socially at your house.”) And yes, I am one of them there vegetarians.

    They are not all the useful for writing research – though I have recently dipped into Mrs Beeton’s Household Management (1861, though a facsimile in this case!) for some of her mid 19th-century delights – lark pie anyone or Aunt Nelly’s Pudding? Or perhaps instructions on clarifying beef dripping or effervescing gooseberry wine?
    Anyway, whilst this modest collecting of cookbooks may be a separate matter, food does keep finding its way into what I write. One reason is I have always been curious about what and how people eat, and this extends to reading. Revealing what people are eating will say so much about time and place, income, lifestyle and attitudes. Then there’s sensuality. Because food is so sensual, isn’t it? Taste, texture, smell; they’re all such voluptuous senses, aren’t they? And then there are the emotional connections with food.

    Because I am going to be busy with more job application procedures this weekend, today I am going to point to a previous post If Food Be the Music of Love, about that classic connection between food and sensuality. No, not aphrodisiacs, but the oozing, trickling, sinewy, wobbling, firm, aromatic, pungent, fiery savour of it.


  2. ❤ You are always a beautiful read miss librepaley 🙂


    1. Now I’ve the vision of Marlon Brando with that packet of butter in ‘Last Tango in Paris!!!’

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Straight from the fridge though! Didn’t Marlon think to have a tub of marge handy?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. 😮 As you wrote earlier, at least use something ‘slippery!’


  3. Lord, I’m hungry after reading this…😊


  4. well, now, I don’t think I’ll ever look at pasta and think food again.


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