cover image The Sex Life of Food: When Body and Soul Meet to Eat

The Sex Life of Food: When Body and Soul Meet to Eat

Bunny Crumpacker, . . St. Martin's/ Dunne, $24.95 (260pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34207-4

Sensual, comforting and "tangled into every human emotion," food has long evoked love in all its forms, and Crumpacker (The Old-Time Brand-Name Cookbook ) explores how our two most raging appetites play upon each other to soothe, satisfy and seduce. Dishing out gobbets of gastronomic history candied with sweet-tart musings, Crumpacker slices into provisions from apples to wedding cake as symbols beyond mere sustenance. In her gloss, both what and how we eat are expressions of the psyche, unremitting quests to fulfill our most primal urges. She takes particular pleasure in teasing out food's more piquant associations (such as "dripping, fleshy mouthfuls" of fruit). Parsing the subtexts of American chow, she considers fast food (wolfed down in bites, it reflects our aggressive, anxious national temperament), ethnic food (oozing with "a rich, fatty kind of love") and salad bars (delighting with array and abundance), and also makes a case for the restorative intimacy of cooking. The obligatory list of aphrodisiacs appears, though Crumpacker debunks their mystique, sticking to her thesis that "we are all beautiful when we are well loved and... well fed." Though seasoned haphazardly with purple prose, Crumpacker's clever insights and lyrical aphorisms blend into an indulgent read. (Feb. 7)