Bringing Sexy Back—Writers, Chefs and Food Porn

Q:  What could be sexier than food and poetry?

A:  Poetry that is about food!   Words slathered with culinary references, meter that tickles the ears as well as the appetite, and writers, (those sensory whores!) writing about humanity’s other favorite pastime.  (If you think I’m referring to baseball, please stop reading this and go back to the drivel on your Facebook page.)

The 29th annual Key West Literary Seminar “The Hungry Muse” is well underway this week and I could not be more excited about the theme.  Like a true grifter, I plan on attending the one and only free event on Sunday afternoon in which seasoned and scholarly poets such as Jane Hirshfield, Billy Collins, Roy Blount Jr and Molly O’Neill will be offering up utterings about edibles, as this year’s seminar explores the world of food in literature.

Word nerds and Foodies rejoice! This sounds like a recipe for a truffle scented Pushcart Prize with an R rating from Zagat.

Poetry geeks often wax rhapsodic about the hotness (not the exact adjective a poet would use) of a person who can write, while excitable eaters rant that there’s nothing sexier than a woman or a man who can truly cook.  This raises an interesting conundrum.

Which is hotter:  The Poet or the Cook? Let’s explore!

New Jersey Poet and Creative Writing Professor, BJ Ward maintains there’s nothing sexier than a woman who can write. He primes his new students by wielding a girlie magazine and announcing he is about to show them the sexiest woman in the world.  After building the suspense, BJ tears open the magazine to the centerfold page and presents a taped-in insertion of none other than the sexiest woman ever to walk the planet…….

(wait for it……)

That’s right!  Emily Dickinson.  She’s hot, I know.  Kind of makes you wonder what 19th century bloke hit that to inspire “Wild Nights!  Wild Nights!”

Writers, like Emily, have the ability to achieve a timeless sort of hotness, uninhibited by their own physical appearance in photos or even on television.  It is only what they had to say across the pages that truly matters.  Superficial hotness, like the kind we are inundated with on the E Channel or People Magazine, relies upon looks and clothes, hair and make-up, wealth and fame.  I’ll bet if we read a poem by one of those Kardashian sisters, no one would think she was hot.  I imagine it would go something like this:

I like my Prada

and enchiladas.

Life is a dream,

but sometimes I scream,

because my family is retarded

and I no longer get carded

and the photographers around here

only photograph my rear

Some people say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I think a thousand words is worth more than a picture.  Which is why reading “Leaves of Grass” is a much more titillating experience than watching “Transformers 3″, but if you place Shia and Walt head to head in a photo competition, the results may vary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even the homeliest of writers can be sexy.  How else could Bukowski have gotten laid?  No one really knows what Greek sex poet Sappho looked like but as the Bob Guccione of antiquity, her immortal words roused centuries worth of loins back when loin clothes were popular.

But what about our darling cooks.  Do their skills in the kitchen translate to overall hotness?

When it comes to glamorizing chefs, Food Network appears to be both a blessing and a curse.  While it has brought Americans into the kitchen, teaching them the joy and bliss of cooking from scratch, it has largely de-mystified the cook as a sexual icon.  Think about Emeril.  And the Barefoot Contessa.  When you make their recipes, do you dare picture either of them naked?  Heck no!  You might just get a little giddy about whom you may be enjoying their concoctions with, but no teenage boys seem to be tacking up posters of Paula Dean on their bedroom walls.

So why doesn’t anyone want to sleep with the chef?  Being enamored with a behind-the-scenes-talent is not a new concept.  People swoon all the time over a song on the radio and admit their secret fantasy about the musician behind it.  Even filmmakers have their fair share of non-actor stalkers.  Writers enjoy long lines of fans waiting to simply meet them for a moment and obtain their signature.  Hell, in 1999, I waited in line for an hour and a half to meet Carl Hiaasen and nearly peed my pants when he signed my book.  Do fans behave that way when Guy Fieri or Bobby Flay are signing cookbooks?  And outside of Michelin starred establishments, do people actually sit at their table and wish they could meet their food’s creator?

I recall a teenage crush I had on the dough boy at Zio’s Pizzeria in Omaha.  Every Saturday for like six months I went to Zio’s for lunch and silently watched this cute boy toss the dough up in the air and skillfully press it into the pizza pans.  In my 16 year old brain, it was so hot.  One day I finally mustered up the guts to talk to him.  While I don’t recall the exact words of our conversation, I do remember discovering he was a student at the alternative school which meant that either he:

A) exhibited severe behavior problems and had been in trouble with the law, or

B) was developmentally disabled.

Still, he knew how to toss that dough!

Anyway, while food can be very sexy, I think seeing chefs on TV rather than simply tasting their creations, hinders their hotness.  Emeril would be so much better looking if I didn’t know what he looked like.  And Alice Waters?  Please, don’t let me see her in action.  Let me just continue to taste her concoctions.  In general, the experience of tasting a great bite of food is hot, more so than watching how it was created.  The simple act of discovering a great recipe can be sexy in and of itself.

About a month ago I made a pork roast which I bathed in Ephemere beer, apples and apricot preserves.  I emailed the recipe to my buddy Landon with a quip at the end suggesting that this recipe was so good that when he makes it, he will want to take it out back and have sex with it.   After hitting send, I realized I had just suggested my friend debase a piece of meat and I felt a little bit ashamed.  And strangely aroused.

I think the sexiest book I ever read was Isabel Allende’s “Aphrodite-A Memoir of the Senses.” It should be the consummate segway between the cookbooks and the soft core pornography on bookshelves everywhere.  And I think this helps answer the conundrum posited earlier before I went off on these bizarre sexy tangents.  Food writing is the sexiest.  Sexier than poets, writers, chefs, and people like Rachel Ray who call themselves chefs.

So, combining the two as this years Literary Seminar has done, must be better than a candy coated, spun sugar orgasm described to you personally by Pablo Neruda.

After Sunday’s seminar at the San Carlos Institute, I’ll be at Better Than Sex on Petronia Street, sipping an Ephemere Adult Apple and reading EE Cummings.

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Knock, Knock?

I have a long history of answering the door inappropriately.  Allow me to rephrase that:  I have a long history of accidentally answering the door under unfortunate circumstances.  Just last Saturday, I opened the door in my underwear much to the malay of my friends, Scott and Zoe.  In my defense, I was simply trying to take out the garbage and I thought I could make it the five feet from the door to the trash can without anybody seeing me.  After all, I am fast.  I’m very fast!  Unfortunately, I’m also forgetful and I’d forgotten that early in the week, I’d invited Zoe and Scott over for Saturday brunch at 12:30.  Promptly, at 12:30, I made the garbage trek in my skivvies just as they were approaching the door.

I played the whole thing off as no big deal.  As if I answer the door like this all the time.  Harder to explain was:

  1. Why my poor boyfriend was also not fully dressed, wearing only a look of extreme surprise,
  2. Why our house was a complete pit, and
  3. Why two unclothed persons in a messy house with no food or drink prepared would answer the door to receive visitors.

It was not my most shining of moments yet not entirely an isolated incident.

There was the time I passed out in my underwear on the sofa in full view of my front door while awaiting delivery from Mister Z’s.  I’d forgotten that I’d called them.  They left a little note on my door which I woke up to the next morning in agonizing cheesesteak horror.  (Yeah, they didn’t let me live that one down for years.)

There were also the thugs who tried to break into my house the morning after Hurricane Wilma only to be greeted at the door by me, you guessed it, in my underwear, wielding a mop handle and a fairly homicidal scowl.  And then there was the most classic case of inappropriate door behavior….the time I knocked on my neighbor’s door while in my underwear.  I’m not a pervert.   I got locked out trying to set some garbage outside on my stoop.  (Apparently I’ve yet to learn my lesson about not taking the garbage out in my undies.)

Locking the front door is not my strong suit and weather permitting, it’s often wide open.  I’ve accidentally flashed the meter man, the mailman, countless landlords, one sheriff’s department officer, a process server and several Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Let’s just put it this way:  If I’m home and not expecting visitors and haven’t ordered delivery food, there’s a good chance I’m in my underwear.   (Sometimes those Chinese food delivery guys are so fast, I scarcely have time to find my pants.)

My friend Sydney came over one day for lunch.  She was early…..way early.   She walked in without knocking only to find me in the kitchen wearing only my skivvies and a snorkel mask.  I know I looked ridiculous but I was in the middle of chopping onions and using the snorkel mask keeps my eyes from watering.  And like I said, she was early.

Perhaps I need to consider rigging a large cow bell at the gate for unsuspecting visitors to ring, or perhaps a motion sensor alarm and a ready robe on a hook in every room.  Or I could simply start locking the front door.  Then again, you all could always call first.  Knocking on an open door way, shouting hello and walking in simultaneously doesn’t cut it.

Today another unsuspecting visitor caught me at my front door in a less than normal costume.  It was the asshole who lives behind me and he had waltzed through the street front gate and all the way down the inconvenient and lengthy pathway that leads to my front door to “discuss” my exterior lighting which he deemed to be “excessively bright” and “blinding.”  In the middle of cooking, I answered the unsolicited visitor at the door in a bra top and a frilly apron.  He was clearly uncomfortable.  He’d come over for some neighborly confrontation and if I had to guess, he was hoping to speak with the man of the house, not a half naked woman in an apron.  He complained about the exterior lights on our house that allegedly shine into his property all night long.  I smiled, wooden spoon in hand, and said I would turn them off by 10 O’Clock.   Redundantly, he complained that the lights were far too bright and I reminded him that I’d take care of the problem.  He complained about the incessant noise of a pump that he could hear from his living room.  Tooling with my apron, I suggested he shut his door when our hot tub is running.  Had I been fully clothed and not in the middle of delightful food on the stove, I may have told him to go fuck himself and thrown him off our property with a wee bit of force.  But the situation was awkward and somewhat comical given my costume and his obvious state of trespassing.  So, I let him stand in my doorway for a half a minute more of super uncomfortable silence before saying “Thank you” and “Have a nice day!” which any sane person would know are euphemisms for “Get off my property” and “Don’t ever come back or I will hurt you.”

The sun is setting and I really must go and turn on my super bright exterior lights for my rear neighbor to enjoy.  If you have something to say to me, email is my preferred form of communication but if you really must speak with me in person, please leave a note in my mailbox, or call before coming over.  It would be embarrassing for us both if I had to chase you off my property in my underpants.

 

more “The Bartender Hates You” -Separate Checks

Bye Bye Beer Thugs

In the Spring of 1990 I inadvertently became an Aheuser-Busch customer.  My underage friends and I were drinking Natural Light (in a can) which we purchased for the bargain price of twenty-five bucks a 12-pack from the enterprising older brother of one of our classmates.  His name, (and I am not making this up) was Tony Randoney and although he too was under the legal drinking age, he was a linebacker sized white boy with several stunning gold teeth, an appearance that superseded the necessity of presenting a valid ID.  His hulking pretense also facilitated a very lucrative price-gouging part-time gig for old Tony and not a single beer-seeking   teenager at Westside High School (including me) questioned his prices nor his beer selection.  So we paid Tony’s obscene prices, drank our Natural Light and pretended it tasted good.

By college we all realized that Natural Light cost far less than twenty-five bucks a 12-pack and was the official beer of the homeless.  Far from the clutches of our parents and outside of Tony Randoney’s canned beer racket, at college we existed in a free market and of the myriad of choices made available to college freshmen, none are more prolific (and present) than choices of alcoholic beverages.  The average freshman learns very quickly that at Frat parties alcohol, from the Everclear spiked punch ladeled from a garbage can to the Keystone Light beer can tower,  is simply a means to an end.  It is a vehicle to get people drunk so that they can either (a) have sloppy meaningless sex or (b) experience an extreme episodic loss of consciousness known as  “Black-out Drunk.”

By sophomore year most college kids figure out whether they want to be social drinkers or black out drinkers.  The former generally discover that beer is not merely a cheap way to get hammered, but is available in a multitude of bottled and draft forms varying in taste, color and appeal, and if consumed in moderation, can be enjoyed along with a little thing called “memorable experiences.”

I love beer.  I love the taste, the hops, the barley.  I love the bubbles, the cold, thirst quenching river of delicious fermented delight.  I love lagers and ales, Belgium Wheats and Irish Stouts.  I love frosted mugs and beautiful glass bottles and even lambics that call for stemmed glassware.  In college I could barely afford to pay my electric bill but I kept a decent stock of imported beers to enjoy.   Red Stripe, Newcastle, Dos Equis Lager and Guinness were generally on hand.  When Samuel Adams Boston Lager first became available in our state, my nerdy beer friends and I rejoiced that a domestic beer was finally up to snuff.

Then I moved to Key West which in the bar business might as well be known as Bud-Land and once again, I accidentally became an Anheuser-Busch customer.  I started drinking lighter and lighter beer, eventually settling on Michelob Ultra since its inception about ten years ago.   Looking back, I think I was simply the credulous victim of marketing, as Michelob Ultra was touted as the “runner’s beer.”    I thought, “Hey, I’m a runner.  This must be my beer.”

Ten years is a long time to be partial to one brand but recently I’ve made a conscious effort to make a change.   I am trying not to purchase or consume any Anheuser-Busch products.

A perfect storm of events led me to make this odd little decision.  The first thing that happened was actually Chris Shultz’s fault.  He opened up this awesome little bar earlier this year called The Porch which specializes in delicious craft beers.  Reading his beer menu and tasting The Porch’s offerings was a taste bud re-awakening.  It was like I’d been eating at McDonald’s for ten years and all of a sudden a Chez Panisse opened up on the corner of Caroline and Duval!

Shortly after becoming a faithful follower of The Porch’s Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat on tap, I happened to watch a documentary called “The Beer Wars” which actually was made nearly two years ago.  The film explores the seedy underbelly of the distribution side of the beer industry, highlighting how the giant three (Anheuser-Busch, Miller & Coors) have such a strong hold on the distributing tier of our nation’s three tier alcoholic beverage system, that this imbalance of power has created a monopoly which quells and often prevents fair competition between beer brewers.  My views on the Three Tier System is an entirely different blog (which I’ll write up soon, I promise,) but suffice to say, “Beer Wars” incites the viewer to scan the beer isle, to look past the rows and rows of Coors, Miller and Bud products, try the little guys of the beer industry and taste for yourself.

So, I’ve been tasting for myself and I realized that for the past ten years I’ve been drinking (and selling) beer flavored water.  In my quest for better beer I’ve discovered some tasty craft brews off on the side shelves at the local supermarkets and I hit up Conch Republic Liquors regularly for Dog Fish Head Punkin Ale and Left Hand Milk Stout.  (“Punkin” is not a typo.  The bottle says “Punk” and the beer is delicious!)

This past year I also found myself in the position of selecting and purchasing all the alcohol for a small, local licensed establishment.  We are only open in season and sell mostly wine and cocktails.  I made the mistake last season of only carrying Bud and Bud Light and holy cow, did I hear some major beer bitching.  “Bud?  All you have is Bud?!  That’s not even real beer.”

This season I have yet to purchase any Budweiser stuff to sell but circumnavigating the Big Bud people is not as easy as one might think.  Since the 2008 merger of Europe’s InBev corporation with Anheuser-Busch, AB-InBev is now the world’s largest beer brewer with 25% of the global beer market.  They own 1 out of every 4 beers!   Besides the well known Bud, Michelob and Busch families, they own Stella, Bass, Beck’s, Kirin, Hoegaarden, Shock Top Wheat and even Rolling Rock!  I was careful to select outside the AB-InBev family and last week we opened for the first time this season, offering a great domestic craft Pale Ale and a tasty imported lager.  To my surprise, I heard quite a few “What?  No Bud Light?” As if denying anyone access to watery flavored beer was an abomination.

So my great better beer experiment continues and just as I once successfully severed my ties with big boned, gold-toothed Tony Randoney and his crap beer scam, I am severing my ties with Anheuser Busch.  It’s not what I want to drink and I’m not willing to settle.

Life’s too short to drink crappy beer.

 

 

 

Drink Slinger of the Week: Tracy

September 19th:  Tracy from The Grand Cafe

Wine Me, Dine Me, Nickel & Dime Me

Want to know the worst place in Florida to wait tables or sling drinks?

Naples.

Known for its pristine Gulf Coast beaches, champion golf courses and world class shopping, Naples, Florida is home to a whole bunch of wealthy retirees who became wealthy retirees by acting like cheap, petty bastards in the restaurants and bars.  At first glance the town presents itself as a luxurious off-season bargain but soon after, it becomes obvious that its year round residents and retired regular visitors are simply the nickel and dime-ing types with discriminating tastes.

Our recent brief stay there began with surprise discount after surprise discount.  Upon arriving at our hotel, we were immediately offered a discount which I attributed to the desk clerk being gay and my boyfriend being cute.  When I told the clerk, “Thank you,” and that we were Florida residents, he interrupted me by further discounting our room.  What the hell, I thought.  It’s September and they must be desperate and friendly.

After checking into our half price fancy hotel, we went for a stroll down Fifth Avenue, where fine art galleries and designer clothing stores flank fine dining restaurants who all seemed to be offering three course bargain meals with free wine.  Perusing the menus which offered lobster, chicken marsala, and sauteed snapper, not a single eatery was charging more than twenty bucks for three courses with a drink and some even advertised half price bottles wine.

My delusional bubble that we’d simply stumbled upon an off-season bargain was soon burst when we sat down for a beer at McCabe’s Irish Pub.  An elderly gentleman was arguing with the bartender over the price of beers on his bill which were not discounted for happy hour.  When the bartender pointed out that it was not yet happy hour, the guy cited that it was already happy hour at another neighborhood bar and his bill should reflect happy hour pricing.   Although I was certain that the bargain hunting gentleman and his jewel-encrusted female companion could afford full price beers, I resisted the urge to interject, even though the young bartender was far too apologetic and kind.

At each subsequent restaurant and bar we went to, the same flea market mentality was in force.  Apparently in Naples, it is customary to demand discounts and argue about the price of your bill and the server will apologize, smile and accommodate any and all of your thrifty bull shit.  I’ve never seen anything like it and am now convinced that the service industry workers are suffering what I’ve labeled “Battered Bartender Syndrome.”  They weren’t just being nice.  They were whipped puppies.  Abused, worn down and broken into submission.  Trained to slash the price of your bill and apologize for underhandedly attempting to charge you full price.

At Verginia’s on Fifth Avenue we enjoyed a beautiful meal while seated at the bar.  When I asked the bartender for a wine list she rattled off all the happy hour half price specials.  When we asked for a dinner menu she steered us toward the three course twenty dollar meal.  When we told her we weren’t necessarily looking for a bargain she made a joke about being accustomed to doing the “Medicare Shuffle.”  As she poured our wine she reminded us that it was half off and we could enjoy happy hour prices all evening.   When we paid our check she informed us that we’d received a free glass of wine as advertised, half price appetizers, and that she hadn’t applied the five dollar split fee for sharing an entree.  We left her an obscene tip which I hope she used towards a ticket for the next bus out of there.

During our final breakfast on our way out of town, we were unfortunately seated near a nasal-voiced local woman who was hell bent on loudly telling the servers all about her pending divorce.   She only shut up for a few minutes to scrutinize her bill.  She called the waiter over to complain that the menu advertised salmon for $6 and on her bill it said $6.25 and when computing the bill with tax, she had not received her true ten percent discount.

I’d like to see that woman pull that kind of crap in my town.

Drink Slinger of the Week: Rachel

September 12th:  Rachel from Santiago’s