June 2004

Tom Bernard


Oh L'Amour, More, More, More!

It’s been a hell of a year on the home front. Between The Lovely Wife scrambling to finish her Master’s, and my own campaign -- one I’ve to date orchestrated about as well as Napoleon managed to weather the Russian winter -- to return to the ranks of the gainfully employed [Special note to any Bookslut readers who are hiring, especially (but not limited to) those of you in the greater Boston area, and may be in need of a Cookslut, or even a generic writer type: let’s talk.], and simultaneously enriched and complicated by our need to provide The Kid with as much domestic tranquility as we can muster under conditions of unprecedented stress, there’s been less time than we’d like for romance. Most days, I barely have enough energy to pick up the woo, much less pitch it.

Things have come to a pretty pass indeed, but there’s hope on the horizon. Not a lot, but with the crush of The Lovely Wife’s coursework and internship behind up, the truly punishing demands on our time have largely passed. Existentially, it’s been a long winter, but fortunately there’s enough spring left for our fancy to (hopefully) turn to thoughts of love.

So when I received a copy of Diane Brown’s The Seduction Cookbook, I recognized it for the twofold opportunity it was. Surely, I could use the recipes in the book as a platform for whipping up a little romance. Slightly less significantly, I could get a column out of it. As an added bonus, I realized I could pad my review of the book with personal revelation in the hope of masking the lack of substance that plagues so much of my writing. [Special note to any Bookslut readers who are hiring: It’s probably best if you ignore the previous sentence. Either that, or take it as a joke. Ha Ha Ha. In reality, my writing is entertaining, reasoned, and above all, substantive. Really.]

In her introduction, Brown reminds us that “Eating together is one of the most bonding experiences humans can share,” a fact that is true even when romance isn’t on the menu, but perhaps especially so when it is. Moreover, cooking for someone can be an act of tremendous devotion, whether the end result is an intimate candlelit dinner for two, or merely a matter of putting provisions on the table at the end of a long day. Food that fills the body is a basic necessity. Cooking that touches the heart and inflames the soul is a luxury, but no less necessary for its undertones of wanton indulgence. This is the territory that Brown’s recipes explore.

She begins the culinary journey with appetizers. Unfortunately for my purposes, adding these to the menu would require a detour into infidelity that I have no interest in taking. Brown notes the power of capsaicin to get the old endorphins pumping, then presents a variety of chili-intensive offerings -- ranging from Chili-Lime Shrimp to Spicy Barbecue Chicken in Lettuce Cups to the ever-so-tempting Scotch Bonnet Chili Blini with Lobster -- that might light my fire, but which aren’t in keeping with The Lovely Wife’s more rarified tastes. Fortunate, there are some milder alternates we might consider, things like Lover’s Purses (dum sum with seafood of chicken filling), Mussels Menage a Trois -- featuring Italian, Greek and Thai flavors -- and even a simple Sweet Melon with Proscuitto. To be fair, it’s hard to call melon and prosciutto a recipe, as there really isn’t all that much to the preparation. Brown falls into the same trap with her recipe for Edamame, soybeans lightly boiled in salt water. Fortunately, I like edamane, melon and prosciutto enough that I’m willing to overlook this. In the end, as appealing as all of these options are, Brown also offers the lighter, but no less effective, option of a Simple Salad with Mustard-Herb Vinaigrette.

Her entrée suggestions are equally enticing. The book is somewhat fish heavy, but that’s fine with me. I’m not going to complain about the prospect of Swordfish with Anise Seed Rub and Mango-Black Pepper Sauce (and if you need a primer in the concept of the sensual power of food, just let your imagination wander over that description for a moment, and tell me it doesn’t inflame your appetite, if not your passions), Crab or Salmon Cakes (mercifully free of the taint of mayonnaise!) with Pink Grapefruit Sauce, or Baked Salmon with Raspberry Cabernet Sauce (forget what I said about the swordfish; if this doesn’t make your mouth water, you need more help than I can possibly provide. Might I suggest the Cialis bouillabaisse?). Aside from sounding great in their own right, these dishes just strike me as more conducive to the aforementioned woo pitching than the tempting but heavy-sounding Gorgonzola Cheese and Walnut Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Roasted Grapes, or even the Steak Au Poivre with Pink Peppercorns.

With meals like that on the table, it’s hard to imagine having room for dessert. Just in case, Brown offers a nice variety of sweet recipes, ranging from a simple Watermelon Granita to Broiled Plums with Lemon Sorbet to the almost mandatory Seductive Chocolate Soufflés -- because what book about food and love would be complete without chocolate? -- to the utterly decadent Sumptuous Stuffed Strawberries with Mascarpone Cheese and Dark Chocolate. If that’s not enough, she also offers several suggestions for morning after breakfasts, just in case a campaign of seduction achieves its intended outcome.

Clearly, I’ve got some options open to me next time I want to set the stage for romance. Reading The Seduction Cookbook has given me some ideas on how to proceed. Beyond that, I do believe the time has come to put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on this column.

The Seduction Cookbook by Diane Brown
iUniverse Star
ISBN: 0595298842