Sunday, March 24, 2013

Food and Sex - Preface

"Pizza is like sex, when it is good, it's really good, and when it's bad... it's still pretty good.”

― Anon.

Although I don't often find myself making conversation with strangers at cocktails parties, it brings me some satisfaction to know that, when required, I can stand and chat pleasantly with almost anyone for a few minutes. My method is simple: ask a question about the other person and they will take charge of the topic. Listen carefully, and in an instant you get a sense of what interests them, how they define themselves, and to what degree they are willing to have a real exchange of ideas and opinions. Even when the stranger seems "chat-friendly," I often choose to act the role of listener, as this requires less of an effort, and leaves the other person with the impression that I find them fascinating.
Occasionally, a conversation calls for just the right "spark" to get everyone engaged. I am always happy to provide the thesis: "Food and Sex are Fundamentally Linked." Two of my favorite topics. I dare say, two of everyone's favorite topics.
I wrote the notes below a few years ago as the preface to a cookbook. It was really more of a guide for young men to teach them basic cooking skills, but it also taught how to use food as a way to learn about a woman's (really any person's) sensibilities, character traits, and passions. Perhaps, if there is enough interest in this post, one day I will return to finish this project. For now I offer only a beginning.
*** Preface ***
Deeply coded in our genetic program - indeed, in the programs of all living things - is the desire to procreate. The best way to assure our own survival and the survival of our species is to leave other organisms of our own kind after us to grow, spread, improve, and have offspring of their own.
Even before Freudian psychology was mainstream, most adult people were, to some degree, personally aware of this deeply rooted need to survive. Early humans spent the greater part of their lives trying simply to stay alive from day to day; and with luck, a few years into adulthood. Survival was the primary motivation for every act. At some point, survival became the catylist for increased cognitive function, inspiring the use of tools and the building of communities. Against the odds humankind, unlike many, many other species, did survive. Yet, despite remarkable improvements in our survival skills, the world has tended toward disorder, and human life has been defined as the struggle to keep things from falling apart. Civilization is the product of the human need to triumph over chaos, by bringing order to our world. History is the story of our attempt to keep our own species from being swept away in the maelstrom of nature.
Because modern humans are a product of millions of years of evolution, shaped by our ability to adapt and progress, evidence of our past nature is present still in our daily lives. In the evolutionary process physical, mental, and behavioral strengths have become manifest which contibute to our ability to carry on. And although sometimes we are reluctant to admit it, the most enduring of our survival skills are also our most ancient: sex.
Sex alone is not enough (now that's a statement with two meanings). We must survive long enough to procreate if we are to survive as a species. We need food to survive. Therefore, sex and food are linked at the most-basic levels of human nature.
Many who read this will stubbornly refuse to admit that humans today are the result of a long process of change governed by random genetic mutation. One does not need to be a Darwin-ist to honestly admit that humans love to eat and have sex. Others will find it difficult to concede that our most-base instincts are as influential on our 'modern' daily actions as are our rational, conscious choices. Self-control is a noble quality that we admire in great leaders, co-workers, and close friends. But I contend it is a very healthy act to acknowlege to one’s self that you like to eat with gusto and make passionate love. The desire to do so is central to your very being. If you can be honest to yourself about this, many (perhaps most) of the other psychological baggage that encumbers your life will fall away.
This book not about sex; it is about food. Along with our essential physical requirements of nutrition and water, humans have developed an elaborate sensory system to guide us as we prepare our food. Culinary science has indirectly codified how humans respond to various smells, tastes, colors, and textures. There is often a ‘meaning behind the meal.’ In its most simple expression, sex is also about the senses of smell, taste, sight, and touch. This is more than coincidence. Rather, it is further evidence that the two instincts of food and sex are rooted very deeply and very closely in our brains; down in the most ancient campus, hardwired directly for sensory input.
This book is also about relationships. By relationship I mean a mutually beneficial union that provides more reward for each party than could be had if they continued to live apart as individuals. Again, it is through millions of years of fitness-filtering that the ideal of two-living-as-one has become the norm. To be clear, marriage is not the goal. Marriage is a religious invention, where as coupling is part of our nature. In truth, there is no goal. The best relationships are dynamic, ever-changing, and always evolving for the betterment of both parties involved.
I am writing from a male perspective; primarily because I see a need today for men to reevaluate how they factor into in the food/sex equation. Our role as ‘provider’ has become distorted by a society that values a person by how much they produce, how much fortune they can accumulate, and how much austentatious wealth they can wave in front of a potential sexual conquest. Nothing against the modern hunter-gatherer, of course, but I think such notions tend to stack the world vertically, in a sort of infinitely layered chaste system. Where does the woman fit in such a world? According to this social strategy, women are little more than trophies by which men measure the size of each other’s... well, checkbook. Just look around. How many beautiful women marry the ideal man and then go on to live unfulfilled lives, tomented by loneliness, seething with resentment, and acting out a shopping list of self-destructive behaviors?
I prefer to view humankind as a web of individuals, men and women, any two of which are capable of reaching out and building a resonant relationship together; either as friends, or lovers. My primary reasoning for such a schema is that the behavior of women is also driven by the food/sex instinct. Our culture's social code has been founded on a matrix of puritanical, Victorian morals, and the tireless efforts of the orthodox church to fight bad behavior with shame and guilt. We have, as a result, grown accustomed to seeing women through a lens that distorts their true nature - hungry. The tired double standard that so differently defines appropriate behavior for men and women is a prejudice no less unfair than to judge a person by their ethnicity or skin color. If we include both sexes in the mix, and require an equal amount of investment from both to grow the new relationship, much good food and great sex will be found in the balance.
You may wonder if I am suggesting that the man do this or that to manipulate a woman. Manipulation is unhealthy in any relationship, and I certainly do not advocate doing anything that will covertly influence an outcome that serves only one partner. However, I will offer advice on how the man can (without the woman always knowing it) keep a relationship on the right track and growing. Also, over the past twenty years there has been an alarming increase in the number of people, mostly young women, who are diagnosted with eating disorders. Mental health professionals agree that these diseases are not about food, but rather, about control. Some women have lost so much of their own identity, or feel themselves so trapped in hopeless circumstances, that they use food and drink, or the self-withholding thereof, in an unconscious, pathological attempt to grab for any thread of selfworth. In a rich and meaningful relationship, both partners feel valued, and find reassurance and comfort in each other.
This book is not about hedonism. It is about the absolutely natural joys of sensuality. For the record, I am not advocating using our best natural instincts as an excuse for wreckless behavior. Remember, life is (at the core) about survival. Thousands of other books can explain better how too much food and/or sex is damaging to the body and mind.
OK. There it is. If enough readers are interested, I propose to write the entire book on-line - in this blog - one chapter at a time. You can be my contibuting editor! Just sign up to "follow."

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