The Valentine’s Day diet
Flash in the Pan
They say the best way into a man’s heart is through his belly. Well, women have bellies, too, you know. Faster than a shot of tequila, more romantic than Brokeback Mountain, as sensuous as your imagination, the right food can turn her into putty.
Why is food such a great tool of seduction? Well, unlike calculus, politics, chess, or any number of cerebral phenomena, eating brings us into our bodies, grounding us in the pleasures of the flesh. The taste, smell, sight … even the very idea of food can leave anyone’s mouth wet with desire.
And while eating at a restaurant can be romantic, you forfeit a great opportunity to flirt. In the kitchen, you’re working together in close quarters, reaching around each other to get stuff off the shelf, to stir a pot, or turn on a burner. You bump into each other. You say, “Oops.”
One Valentine’s Day a few years back, Shorty and I were in the kitchen making dinner. I was preparing my famous morels in cream sauce, and was at the point where I add the cream. The cream was so thick it almost wouldn’t pour, and with every glop the meal became more of a caloric commitment. Shorty’s visceral suspicion of fat made her wary of my heavy cream, even though deep down she wanted it.
“Don’t! Stop! Don’t! Stop!” she gasped.
Her objections were no more convincing than the ones she had uttered that very Valentine’s Day morning, during breakfast in bed, as I spread butter on her muffin. She protested as if the butter made her muffin somehow sinful.
Doctor Ruth once said that the biggest sex organ in the body is your brain. Well, I say the brain is the biggest taste organ, too—especially if you’re stubborn, like Shorty, who claims to like the smell of bacon, but not the taste. Personally, I wonder she likes the smell and the taste—just not the concept. Suffice it to say that when I went to make her favorite breakfast, curried eggs, I had to be careful with the bacon.
I chopped a piece and fried it in a pan, along with a handful of whole garlic cloves. I stirred the cloves often, so they browned evenly, and added a shot of sherry, which both helped cook the garlic and steamed more grease out of the bacon. Normally I would have left the spent bacon bits in the pan, but for Shorty’s sake I ate the evidence, leaving only the invisible, flavorful grease. Then I added half an onion, chopped, and sautéed it over medium heat until the onion started to sweat.
“I smell bacon,” Shorty said, from bed.
“I’m cooking bacon separately, my Valentine, just so you can smell it,” I called back.
“Yum,” she said.
Then I added a teaspoon of Patak’s brand hot curry paste and stirred until it was well mixed. Next, I added a bunch of broccoli florets—frozen from the garden in September—and stir-fried for another minute. Finally I added the eggs, freshly laid and already beaten, and let them cook undisturbed for a minute before scrambling them home.
I returned to bed with a big plate of eggs, and coffee.
“Baby,” she said, “what are you trying to do to me?”
“Fatten you up for the slaughter,” I said.
But it wasn’t the truth; I only said it to be naughty. If I really wanted to fatten up Shorty I’d have served French toast instead of bacon grease and eggs. Or even another muffin—with or without butter.
The cover of Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes (Knopf, 2007) depicts a piece of toast with a pad of butter. The butter represents “good” calories” while the bread stands for “bad” calories. It isn’t news that carbohydrates tend to be more fattening than dietary fats—that’s a central pillar of the Atkins Diet, among many others. But Taubes goes further, chronicling just how completely the results of scientific research on the body’s response to fat and processed carbohydrates were suppressed and distorted by those who market low-fat and nonfat foods. Carbohydrates, it turns out, not fats, are the primary cause of obesity, heart disease, and many other ailments.
While fat makes you feel satisfied and full, carbohydrates make you hungry. They’re a tease. Bite for bite, fat has more calories, but you need fewer bites to feel full. With carbohydrates, on the other hand, you not only take more bites for a greater total intake of calories, you also trigger an insulin feedback loop that puts your body in fat-accumulation mode.
It’s worth considering just what sort of lover you are, and want to be. Are you the starchy white-bread type, leaving her unsatisfied, hungry, and fat? Or are you the sort of energy her body truly craves, filling her up with long-term satisfaction?
Ultimately, the road to your lover’s heart will be paved with her favorite foods, whatever they may be. But if you want to keep her extra-happy, consider greasing that road with fat. If she objects, you’ll just have to sneak it in. She’ll love you for it, even if she doesn’t know why.