Bob Shacochis, the award winning writer of the critically acclaimed novel The Woman Who Lost Her Soul and the classic culinary memoir Domesticity: A Gastronomic Interpretation of Love, has been married to the same woman for more than 40 years, so obviously he knows a thing or two about how to keep a lady satisfied. More often than not, it’s not about what’s in her heart. This Valentine’s Day, Bob offers up a few tips on how to win and keep the lover of your dreams. Through her stomach.
Know Your Lover’s Tastes
No doubt about it, if you want a pure insight into other people’s lives, find out what they most enjoy eating, and what they would never eat, even if it meant starvation. It’s a good idea never to cook for somebody without knowing this information. More importantly, it’s romantic suicide to live with somebody until you’re sure your gastronomic stars aren’t crossed.
Forget Fancy Restaurants, Home is Where the Heart Is
Okay, so one fellow’s domesticity is another man’s shackles. I too am seduced by cosmopolitan restaurants and trendy bistros, menus indecipherable except to a graduate degree holder in the Romance languages. Ultimately, however, these establishments can become bordellos of endless gastronomic affairs with the appetite prowling and carousing, lascivious and transient. Little more is generated here but an ephemeral commitment that applies only to the glamor of the moment. I am no more immune to these moments of escape than anyone else but I know I’ll always come home, with a sense of relief, to my own table, convinced that home is the setting of something better, where meaning and satisfaction are anchored firmly into the foundation of our private lives and don’t drag off in the tide of yet one more inflated transaction added to the commerce of the day.
Skip the Spuds
A woman who believes in the amorous properties of potatoes shouldn’t be difficult to please, but frankly I don’t recall any mention of starchy foods in the Karma Sutra. Common sense tells me that not many of us, male or female, tend to be sexually aroused by spuds. They champion neither evocative shape nor aesthetic lure, have a taste only a bad poet would bother to describe, and conceived in subterranean ignorance of passion, quickly mature to frumpy ordinariness, and connote the long pedestrian haul of love rather than the wild lather of its overture. What pitiful son-of-a-bitch has ever looked upon a lump of mashed potatoes, then raised a wolfish gaze to the coquette responsible for the lump, put two and two together and concluded, “Good Lord, I must have my way with her! I must!”
Spice Up the Morning After
Usually, what I don’t want is to have the dreamy child in me consoled by cereals and juices. I want to be startled in the morning, even shocked; I want to be bruised by ethnicity; I want to hoard my sensual pleasures and eat them too. Does this make sense? Of course not, but so go the idiosyncratic moods of breakfast. I’ll take Lancashire’s grilled blood sausages. I’ll take the Caribbean’s mashed sardines and saltfish cakes. Japan’s pickled vegetables and seaweeds. Ditto Mexico’s huevos rancheros or my grandmother’s sunrise plates of steamed spaghetti. And – ah! – to come awake to a bagel smeared with cream cheese, layered with flabby lox, mounded with slices of red onions. Give me fruits that have no name and emanate weird fragrance. Give me something volcanic, and something arctic!
When In Doubt, Serve Oysters
From the gastronomic point of view, to die in the saddle (a la Rockefeller), eating a well-iced dozen on the half shell, is not at all an ignoble fate. Nine Floridians succumbed in 1992 as a result of eating raw oysters. The culprit is Vibrio vulnificus, a naturally occurring marine bacterium that preys on weak livers. For those of us with healthy constitutions, the threat is nonexistent. My advice is to belly up to the raw bar and not step back until you’re acutely aware of the improvement in your sperm count. If you harbor doubts, manly or otherwise, about eating it raw, heat it up. Vibrio vulnificus can’t survive the cooking process. Think of it as foreplay.
Excerpted from Domesticity: A Gastronomic Interpretation of Love (Trinity University Press, 2013)