7 June 2009

I don't have a problem

Dear Reader, before we go any further -- so far, in fact, that you may be tempted to advise I consult a psychiatrist -- let me just say that what follows is not an indication of any sort of mental disorder on my part. What you’ll be reading about in a moment is simply a small collection of my food-related life observations that were hoarded by my stealthy mind at one time or another. It has come time I thread those with words and make them readable. Somewhat.
Besides, blowing a raspberry at the author is prohibited.

Now, down to business.

Many years ago I had a small talk which, were I more angelic, I would forget. (But that did not happen, as you may guess.) I was twenty at the time, doing a BA in linguistics in my hometown university in Russia. The summer exams were dealt with, so I spent lots of time listening to my female friends’ love stories and, if asked, dispensing free and objective love advice (I myself did not have much experience in the field, but that did not hinder my enthusiasm to consult on the matter). One sweltering mid-June afternoon found me slurpily consuming a waffle scone of melting chocolate ice-cream on a long walk with one of my then classmates, a girl of my age but of a much greater love-life experience. It may have been the heat that addled her sense of self-censorship, I can’t say now, but, as we strolled along a narrow, curvy street fringed with chestnut trees on either side, the sun shining through their leaves relentlessly, she thoroughly showered me with the nuances of her eventful sexual life. I’ll tell you what, she did not spare me the gory details.

‘He [the girl’s then boyfriend] told me dreamily that my navel smells like cheese’, she revealed one such snippet. A minute ago a thought of licking my ice-cream bode well but now I could not even think of finishing my treat, dammit.

I opined that such comparison insulted my love for cheese at the time. I recall I even threw in the words like ‘humankind’, ‘humanity’, ‘dignity’, ‘restrain’ and ‘freedom from imposition’, and seasoned our conversation with a slew of exclamatory I-beg-your-pardon’s. I sounded thunderously impressive.
If I say I was going to banish the memory of the occasion from my mind, it would be an inexcusable, consummate lie. Better if I’ll tell you the truth: the memory of it became engravable.

Years passed. With them passed away my pretence of being puritanical. When, the other day, I flipped open my notebook where I document my cheese-tasting (among other foods, of course) experiences and impressions, I noticed with a start that almost every aromatic cheese I described featured ‘smells of the aroused human flesh’ characteristic, along with conventional ‘pungent’, ‘nutty’, ‘creamy’ and the like. Err.

I thought I had a problem, the evidence for which was well-documented and thus irrefutable. I shared my concerns with friends; they thought me fun. Then, I resolved to books, to one book by Isabel Allende, in particular. Aphrodite. In it, the author reflects on her fifty-years’ worth of relationship with food and eroticism (would you listen if I, the girl of a crazed mind, say I whole-heartedly recommend it?). But apart from the hilariously informative and instructive (there are recipes in the book) contents, it was the fore-word that set my mind at peace:

"Her breath is like honey spiced with cloves,
Her mouth delicious as a ripened mango.
To press kisses on her skin is to taste the lotus,
The deep cave of her navel hides a store of spices.
What pleasure lies beyond, the tongue knows,
But cannot speak of it."
(Srngarakarika Kumaradadatta, twelfth century)

See that bit about the navel? Almost like the infamous ‘your navel smells like cheese’, no? Anyway, I reasoned out that if one Srngarakarika Kumaradadatta likened bodily smells to food items as early as in the twelfth century, I, with my cheese-notes, should feel at ease, especially since it is the year 2009 outside. In other words, I concluded I don’t have any problem. And I am inclined to keep thinking so, regardless of the fact that there are three types of cheese -- I’m not giving away the names; don’t want to make you rebel against them -- resting on my desk and oozing their aromas of ‘ the aroused human flesh’. One smells of sweaty arm pits (Dear Reader, please don’t wince, I am talking about sweaty that borders on sweet and grassy, nothing repulsive, really), another of navel, the third of thighs.

Here is something else I wish to relay. Through my own experience I learnt that smelly cheese is a perfect attitude-tester. I observed that a relationship is doomed if, among other things, I avoid the pleasure of eating aromatic aged diary when on a romantic date. Needless to say, things may look promising, I find, when a pungent cheese-crackly bread-wine trio is the first thing I wish when asked out for dinner.

It feels better now to have revealed the truth that impregnated me for months. Nay, for years.

P.S. In case you're wondering, the photo above is supposed to attend to my passionate discussion of cheese today, in the gloaming of now-rainy, now-foggy June 7th of 2009, in Amsterdam.


Anna said...

i'm glad you found an isabel allende book you like! Aphrodite does indeed fit perfectly with this post.

toni said...

Love this post - both your descriptions as well as the photo.

Besides, there are worse things than cheese for a navel to smell like....

Marieke said...

You are such a great teller of stories about food and life Anya!

BTW did you get my mail?

anya said...

Anna - about Isabel Allende I learnt from you, so here is a big thank you! :)

Toni - a navel certainly benefits from a comparison to cheese. But does cheese? :)

Marieke - I'm so happy to hear that, thanks! (I got the mail; a response has just been sent.)