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:
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.