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Tag Archives: Victorine Meurant’s tummy

758px-manet_edouard_-_le_dejeuner_sur_lherbe_the_picnic_1

I’ve been on sabbatical from teaching Middle School for six months now. I’ve done a lot of reading, quite a bit of writing, I’ve come up with a plan for my book and…my middle has expanded considerably. Teachers! You don’t realize how many calories you burn in a single day running down the hallway after little ones, taking Middle School girls to the nurse, or going to the special hiding place (every high school has one) to find so-and-so who is skipping class (or maybe necking as we called it in my days).

I’m sitting on my butt and yes, the middle is spreading. Yesterday, to console myself, I went to a mirror, took off my clothes and put myself in the position of Victorine Meurent in this painting of Manet. You know the argument: fuller figures were sexier back then! To my dismay, my gut was just as big, but my boobs were saggier and smaller, so even that didn’t make me feel better.

Following Obama’s adage that tough times call for tough measures I am going on a diet. You see, I’m going to France (the land of Carla Bruni, waxed legs, and petite women eating Brie) in only two months and I can’t bear (bare! ha!) the idea of going there with five extra kilos (kilos! I’m SO European!) around my midriff. To assuage my pain I’ve decided to detour my favorite foods from my mouth into my writing. Here goes:

Cauliflower au gratin: a simply, hearty dish. The low-calorie vegetable is first smothered in a rich Béchamel sauce and then covered in Gruyère cheese. It comes out of the oven golden and bubbling like a comestible puddle of lava. A crusty bread is recommended so that you can sop up the sauce.

Fish tagine with chermoula: fish, potatoes, and peppers layered and covered generously with chermoula, a mixture of garlic, parsley, cilantro, paprika, ground cumin, harissa, lemon juice, and olive oil. Chermoula is the Moroccan answer to pesto. This is all slow-baked (that is what the word tagine really means). When it comes out all the parts have miraculously fused into a taste too delicious to describe. I had this in a palace in Fez and mine is better. That is how good I am.

Profiteroles: OMG. Profiteroles bring together in one bite: crunchy, creamy, hot, cold, bitter, and sweet. It is mouth-ecstasy as only the French can do it. Into an airy puff of pastry insert high-quality vanilla ice-cream (no guar gum, please!) and cover with a hot dark chocolate sauce. I make these too, but my pastry succeeds only every other time, so you would have to come over on the right day. A photo of a young women with a profiterole in her mouth, chocolate and vanilla ice-cream dripping out of the corners, would surely be banned on Google in many countries.

Cheeses: unpasteurized so that they can walk up to your plate by themselves.

Roast chicken stuffed with rice and fresh figs: First of all, let’s talk about the perfect roast chicken. The skin has cooked so that when you bite into it it has a satisfying crackle. The breast meat is juicy with a hint of salt and barnyard fun: yes! the free-range bird’s flesh has an indelible taste of I’ve lived well and now give myself up to you. Into its cavern is stuffed a luxurious mix of cooked rice, onions sauteed in olive oil, and small, purple fresh figs. Don’t mix too much! It will become a purple haze. Restraint is of the essence.

Fresh figs brings me to my favorite piece of food porn writing by Walter Benjamin. In his essay simply called Food we can imagine what Julia Child would have written like if she had smoked a joint now and then. Enjoy:

No one who has never eaten a food to excess has ever really experienced it, or fully exposed himself to it. Unless you do this, you at best enjoy it, but never come to lust after it, or make the acquaintance of that diversion from the straight and narrow road of the appetite which leads to the primeval forest of greed. For in gluttony two things coincide: the boundelessness of desire and the uniformity of the food that sates it. Gourmandizing means above all else to devour one thing to the last crumb. There is no doubt that it enters more deeply into what you eat than mere enjoyment. For example, when you bite into mortadella as if it were bread, or bury your face in a melon as if it were a pillow, or gorge yourself on caviar out of crackling paper, or when confronted with the sight of a round Edam cheese, find that the existence of every other food simply vanishes from your mind. -How did I learn all this? It happened just before I had to make a very difficult decision. A letter had to be posted or torn up. I had carried it around in my pocket for two days, but had not given it a thought for some hours. I then took the noisy narrow-gauge railway up to Secondigliano through the sun-parched landscape. The village lay in still solemnity in the weekday peace and quiet. The only traces of the excitement of the previous Sunday were the poles on which Catherine wheels and rockets had been ignited. Now they stood there bare. Some of them still displayed a sign halfway up with the figure of a saint from Naples or an animal. Women sat in the open barns husking corn. I was walking along in a daze, when I noticed a cart with figs standing in the shade. It was sheer idleness that made me go up to them, sheer extravagance that I bought half a pound for a few soldi. The woman gave me a generous measure. But when the black, blue, bright green, violet, and brown fruit lay in the bowl of the scales, it turned out that she had no paper to wrap them in. The housewives of Secondigliano bring their baskets with them, and she was unprepared for globetrotters. For my part, I was ashamed to abandon the fruit. So I left her with figs stuffed in my trouser pockets and in my jacket, figs in both of my outstretched hands, and figs in my mouth. I couldn’t stop eating them and was forced to get rid of the mass of plump fruits as quickly as possible. But that could not be described as eating; it was more like a bath, so powerful was the smell of resin that it penetrated all my belongings, clung to my hands and impregnated the air through which I carried my burden. And then, after satiety and revulsion – the final bends in the path – had been surmounted, came the ultimate peak of taste. A vista over an unsuspected landscape of the palate spread out before my eyes – an insipid, undifferentiated, greenish flood of greed that could distinguish nothing but the stringy, fibrous waves of the flesh of the open fruit, the utter transformation of enjoyment into habit, of habit into vice. A hatred of those figs welled up inside me; I was desperate to finish with them, to liberate myself, to rid myself of all this overripe, bursting fruit. I ate to destroy it. Biting had rediscovered its most ancient purpose. When I pulled the last fig from the depths of my pocket, the letter was stuck to it. Its fate was sealed, ; it, too, had to succumb to the great purification. I took it and tore it into a thousand pieces.

Have you written any food porn? Feel like trying your hand at it? Send it my way.

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