I think it started when I was 16, and got my first waitressing job at the gastronomic wonderland in the next village. Four nights a week I’d hand out dishes of amuse-bouche and petits fours; dishes laced with saffron, truffle oil and homemade vinegars. The head chef would indulge my questions about why this went with that, entertaining my inquisitions on how to butterfly a salmon fillet and how much lemon was too much for a tarte au citron, because none of the other waitresses cared.
By the time I left school I’d bought my first bible- a hardback copy of Larousse Gastronomique- worked full-time as a front of house restaurant manager, and saw Julie and Julia three times back-to-back when it was released.
Related: Hellman’s Mayonnaise is also my middle name.
Further related rhetorical question: is there anyone that Meryl Streep cannot play?
By the time I rolled into Italy last May, my appetite was unrivalled. From rice balls to deep-fried artichokes, gelato to gnocchi al gorgonzola, if I have learned anything about myself in this past fourteen months it is that I’d spend my last euro on something to put in my mouth.
Oh. Wait. That is exactly what I did do.
Of course, then, when my friend handed me a copy of Anthony Capella’s The Food of Love, I pretty much cried with food passion, wanked over the food porn, and then foodgasmed in a state of unapologetic ecstasy.
She gave me the novel because she said she’d thought of me the whole time she read it. I can see why. The protagonist is called Laura. MY NAME IS LAURA. She is a foreigner living in Trastevere, Rome. I LIVED IN TRASTEVERE WHEN I LIVED IN ROME. The best way to seduce her is by feeding her. PLEASE MEET MY IMAGINARY LIFE-PARTNER, WHO JUST SO HAPPENS TO BE A FOOD WRITER.
(A food writer who is divorced, so that he has no expectations of romance, is ten years older than me, and has kids already so I don’t feel the pressure to birth my own. Men say they don’t want babies, but when push-comes-to-biological-shove, they wanna sow their seed as much as any chick and it scares me. Fact.)
GUYS. This book was so sumptuous in its descriptions of verdure in pinzimonio and asparagi con zabione and spaghetti all’amatriciana that for the first time ever in my reading life I limited how much I allowed myself to consume in any one sitting. When food is written about like this:
There was a touch of silage in the scent of the cheese, from winter feed, but there was fresh grass too, and sunlight, and the faintest tang of thyme where it grew wild in the meadows and had been eaten by the sheep along with the grass…
one can be expected to need a lie down, if only to slow the uncomely panting that seemingly accompanies such evocative food imagery. My heart- and loins- couldn’t take any more than four pages at a time.
I just didn’t want it to end.
And also, for the first time in my reading life, it wasn’t a literary experience I wanted to share.
For the first two pages I had my colleague read to me. A male colleague. A male colleague who has a voice like gently heated fresh milk on a chilly autumn eve, dribbled messily with honey; splash of whisky sunk into the pan. We got to the first description of ristretti- strong, concentrated coffee, not for the faint-of-heart- and I had to ask him to stop. I knew we had to work together for the next sixteen hours of the following thirty days, and if he said those naughty, secret words to me I’d never be able to think of him in the same way again.
The Food of Love became a book only for me. Alone. Four pages at a time.
It took me almost six weeks to finish, and I wish I had those six weeks again. By the last page I had resolved to have sex whilst spooning tartufo- a dark chocolate gelato dusted with cocoa- into the mouth of my lover.
I’m desperate to search for funghi in the dawn of a hilltop forest before having sex under the trees, squashing the lavender underfoot so that I’ll never take an evening summer walk in the garden without reliving the precious illicit moment again and again.
I want my food-writer lover to send me recipes via email when we are apart, so together but separately we cook the same dishes, and then eat what we have slavishly prepared as we ask the other what are you wearing? over the telephone.
In short, this book reminded me why I adore food.
And, of course, the men who can cook it.