Food and Romance: The Tissue of Little Things

by Dwight Furrow
6a019b00fffe15970b01b7c7434cf9970b-200wiHerb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass 1965 My first intimation that food and romance were related

The connection between food and romance has become a cliché, especially around Valentine's Day when even the most desultory couple manages to build a castle with a box of chocolate. But the connection is in fact more profound than a once-a-year phantasm. In fact the connection is deeply rooted in history and seems virtually universal.

Perhaps the most vivid demonstration of a direct link between food and romantic emotion is Laura Esquivel's novel (and subsequent film), Like Water for Chocolate. In this magical realist tale of a turn-of-the-20th-century Mexican family, Tita, the youngest daughter, communicates her emotions to her family through the food she makes for them. As she prepares the food, passion, longing, anger or frustration are transmitted via the food to the people who eat the dish, who then experience similar emotions. When Tita falls in love with Pedro, the Quail in Rose Petal Sauce she serves at a family celebration induces lustful feelings in her sister Gertrudis, who abruptly leaves the ranch while making love to a soldier on the back of a horse. When Tita's older sister, Rosaura, marries Pedro instead, Tita sorrowfully prepares a wedding cake, which throws her guests into paroxysms of longing and melancholy before they become violently ill.

Of course, this novel is pure fantasy, but the idea that food directly stirs our emotions has a long history. The Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans all entertained folk wisdom that various foods could induce sexual arousal, and the medical science and philosophy of the day was used to support such beliefs. We get the word “aphrodisiac” from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of romantic love. According to the myth, Aphrodite was born from the sea and came to shore on a scallop shell accompanied by Eros, thus giving birth to the idea that shellfish can arouse sexual desire in lovers. Aphrodite also thought sparrows were particularly lustful and thus Europeans for many centuries considered sparrows to be aphrodisiacs—demonstrating that it doesn't take much to persuade people when the promise of sex is involved.

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In Defence of Valentine’s Day

by Tara* Kaushal

In-Defence-of-Valentines-Day-Sahil-Mane-PhotographyDespite the criticisms in the Indian context, I explain why I'm a huge fan of the day of love. Conceptual image by Sahil Mane Photography.

Call me a romantic fool, but I love Valentine's Day. In college in New Delhi, I'd laugh and say, “Why not? It's just another excuse to celebrate and get presents!” Now, 10 years, awareness and much consumer fatigue since, it isn't about the gift economy at all. For days before, love is literally in the air (and on the airwaves, TV and everywhere). Consciously ignoring advertising suggestions of what we should be giving-receiving, where we should be going, what we should be doing, Sahil and I celebrate without spending. Last year, we just cooked for each other over music and laughter; this year, we're planning a party. I also wish my mother, family and friends.

When I speak of my love for Valentine's, it tends to spark debate with a whole range of people. I've had the religious and cultural traditionalists play the ‘Against Hinduism/Islam' (India's two major religions) and/or ‘Against Indian Culture' Card, say it is a cultural contamination from the West. Friends who are nonconformists and anti consumerism are, well, anti its consumerism, the nauseating marketing blitz and the pigeonholing.

And the many arguments of those coming from a postcolonial perspective are best summed up on Wiki: “The holiday is regarded as a front for ‘Western imperialism', ‘neocolonialism' and ‘the exploitation of working classes through commercialism by multinational corporations' (Satya Sharma in ‘The Cultural Costs of a Globalized Economy for India', Dialectical Anthropology). Studies have shown that Valentine's Day promotes and exacerbates income inequality in India, and aids in the creation of a pseudo-Westernized middle class. As a result, the working classes and rural poor become more disconnected socially, politically and geographically from the hegemonic capitalist power structure. They also criticize mainstream media attacks on Indians opposed to Valentine's Day as a form of demonization that is designed and derived to further the Valentine's Day agenda.”

And, surprisingly, I agree with most of these criticisms.

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