True Confessions of a Porn Addict

crimson mangoHow was I to resist the nude, baby-soft cheeks of a voluptuous Alphonso mango, fleshy and ripe with honeyed nectar? Or the briny lips of an oyster’s folds, freshly shucked and sweetly yielding? Gentle reader, I could not help myself.


First published:

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The Torch
Thursday, February 1, 2007 – Volume 53 Issue 15
Arts & Entertainment Page 7


durian seller

“Like partially-smoked meat, still moist on the inside, only ranker.”

“No, no. It’s not that at all. It’s something else… fermented tofu? Or really stinky cheese, but sweet.”

“Vanilla custard with pong.”

“You know, the real thing is so pungent, Thai Airways makes passengers put them in special metal boxes…” durian seed

“And they’re banned on public transportation and air-conditioned places in Asia. They have to be shelled and shrink-wrapped in Styrofoam boxes before you can take them anywhere.”

“Oh, and the locals say if you down it with beer, the chemical reaction will cause your bowels to explode.”

It’s a strange, united nations of a group that’s gathered around the kitchen table on a snowy Ithacan afternoon. Romania, Siberia, India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore are represented, and our thoughts turn to the all-American boy currently killing aliens in the study.

“John, you have to try this!”

We carefully slice off a tiny nub from the sticky, brown sausage, peel off the plastic, and spear it on a fork (presentation counts). Gleefully running to the study, we brandish the aromatic offering at a very suspicious “pizza, teddy bear grahams, California roll, and OJ-only” Floridian.

“It’s good, we promise!”

“It’s really not that bad… just don’t smell it first!”

He takes the fork, “And you won’t stop bugging me till I’ve tried it, will you?”

“Nope.”

“Come on, John… be a man, do the right thing!” durian sausage

John eyeballs the nub. He puts it to his nose, and his eyes bulge in alarm. “You guys are insane… this is foul!” Still, he nibbles on a tiny edge… and promptly spits it out on his girlfriend’s prized Bonsai.

“Oh come on, it’s not that bad!”

John rudely dismisses us with retching noises and frantic gulps of soda. We scoot back to the kitchen to riffle through the rest of the loot Malaysian boy has brought back. There are cloyingly sweet chicken-malt biscuits, prawn floss rolls, moreish, thumb-size crabs you pop whole into your mouth (shell and all), crispy, crunchy, sesame-studded anchovies, sandy green pea cookies, and “oriental bubblegum” – chewy strips of dried cuttlefish guaranteed to give you fish breath for a day.

It’s a ritual we enact after each visit home – wherever home may be. Every one of us lugs a suitcase of weird and wonderful edibles back to the US, for eager taste-testers to conference over. Inevitably, we find unlikely similarities in the diverse cuisines, which spark a host of fierce, sometimes violent debates.

The curdled cubes of pig’s blood the Chinese eat reminds someone of the blood sausage his Italian Nonna makes. A Russian recipe for apple pie is strikingly French clafoutis-like. Prejudices emerge and unlikely allegiances are wrought. Someone dismisses a lovingly smuggled in cheese as “tasting of sheep’s udders” and nearly sets off a brawl.

It’s intriguing how strongly we feel about the foods we eat. The tastes we acquire, the flavors, textures and smells we accept unthinkingly (and by the same token, reject), and the trendy new items which work their way into our diets (72% single-origin dark chocolate made by cloistered nuns who have taken a 20-year vow of silence, for instance, or Taiwanese bubble tea) come loaded with cultural, socio-economic, geographical and historical nuances. The foods we grow up eating, the foods we turn to when we’re sad or happy, and the foods we spurn – all tell a story.

And the world is listening. The internet is awash with gastro-porn – luscious, mouthwatering, skin shots of food provocatively posed, with purple prose to match. Food bloggers, or floggers, write about their gastro-crusades, titillating voyeurs with a naughty flash of pheasant leg here, a drawn-out torment of cantaloupe cleavage there.

The world is besotted with what their neighbors on the other side of the world are eating – what they’re putting into their mouths when “sssshhhhh!” there’s no one looking, what they’re sneaking into the house at 3 am, what they’re hiding behind the carton of wholesome 1% milk, and even what they’re proudly bringing home to introduce to beaming moms and dads.

So mesmerized was I by the swashbuckling adventure and rampant, smoldering good looks online, that I made flogs the topic of my honors thesis (and piled on the pounds, lickety-split). How was I to resist the nude, baby-soft cheeks of a voluptuous Alphonso mango, fleshy and ripe with honeyed nectar? Or the briny lips of an oyster’s folds, freshly shucked and sweetly yielding? Gentle reader, I could not help myself.

And so it was, night after night of lascivious pleasure…my eyes greedily devouring the naked flesh, the erotic prose, my head spinning with questions that demanded satisfaction, my heart clamoring for more, more, more.

And yet, gutter ravings aside, it is with these scattered pixels that floggers have achieved what years of peacekeeping missions, diplomatic envoys, and high-level negotiations have not. They have managed to impart – through the food they put on their table, and the stories they share of their families, lives, work, dreams, and fears – a more intimate understanding of the Other.

A recognition that the woman who veils her face and prays to a different God, who speaks a different tongue and may hold a different point of view… she breaks bread at the table too. She livens up her salads with familiar herbs plucked from her window sill garden, sends her children off to school with – not PB & J sandwiches – but sesame paste and honey drizzled flatbreads and hearty, bean-filled soups on cold days. Celebrations call for racks of lamb, redolent with spices, vine-ripened tomatoes tossed in verdant olive oil, and platters of sticky, date-filled, thousand-layered pastries… while sick days call for the universal chicken soup.

She is not that different. They are not that different.

Hungry for more? Check out: Global Voices Online

Photograph from Ferran on Flickr

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