Culinary Foreplay

I am starting to think that good sex, cooking, and eating well have a lot in common.

Posted on | Ramani Durvasula, PhD | Comments ()

I am starting to think that good sex, cooking, and eating well have a lot in common. 

The other day I found myself preparing dinner and paying attention to the dance of the kitchen – assembling ingredients, chopping, tasting, boiling, serving. I had to ensure that the pasta was al dente, and I wanted to get the broccoli just right; I had to be mindful and not walk away from the pot to keep it yummy-crisp and not nasty-soggy. I wanted to make sure things were warm and not hot. I wanted to properly set the table.  

I nibbled the broccoli, tested the pasta, sipped some wine. Being around the food, good food, tasting it, and paying attention to it, made me appreciate it. And by the time I sat down, I wasn’t crazy-hungry, but I was ready to eat.

I viewed it as culinary foreplay. 

When it comes to sex, we too often get caught up in the final act, when the good stuff is actually the lead-in.  Get the foreplay right, and you can consume the sex better – languorously, slowly, pleasurably – and not like you are trying to go to the races. 

Our brains deal with satiety – or the sense of being “full” – in several ways. Food hits us at the level of all 5 senses – taste, smell, sight, sound, touch (same with great sex). Prepare the food yourself, and you taste, smell and feel the food – so when the meal finally hits the table, you are less likely to gorge on it. Instead, you’ll savor it, take smaller bites.

Meal preparation can take the edge off by whetting all of your senses, and can lead you to be a better eater (just like good foreplay can make you a better lover).

You also can’t walk away from cooking – someone very close to me, who was actually a good cook, had the bad habit of walking away from what he was cooking so he could watch TV.  He liked the idea of multi-tasking, and more than once, lots of expensive ingredients went to hell because the 76ers went into overtime.  Again, a bit like sex isn’t it? Doesn’t really work if you walk away.

It even comes to setting the stage – interesting lingerie, candles, music, clean sheets. The culinary equivalent is to set the table – make it look nice. Treat the meal with the respect and pleasure it deserves.

So often we eat because we are starving – and we grab something fast and easy because we can’t be bothered or don’t want to take the time to cook. Grab-and-go food tends to be unhealthy (though tasty in the short term). Grab-and-go sex tends to be unfulfilling (though tasty in the short term).

Learning to eat better means learning to be with food. And that means cooking, with healthy ingredients. And taking the time to touch, taste, cut, boil, bake, fry – turn on your senses. 

One of the reasons that eating out is such a diet killer is that you plop yourself down, bread comes, drinks come and food comes. No foreplay. Thus, you are likely to eat worse and more mindlessly. 

So be with your food. Touch it, taste it, cut it, sauté it, smell it. Like well-placed kisses and caresses, to do so takes the edge off, lets the anticipation grow, and makes the meal pleasurable AND memorable.

And who knows, maybe you will get lucky after dinner – and burn off a few more calories.

Blog written by Ramani Durvasula, PhD
Dr. Ramani Durvasula has over 15 years of teaching, clinical and research experience. After receiving her doctorate in clinical...