Do I agree with Garrison Keillor? Hmm! Now let me see. Sex or sweet corn? Sweet corn or sex? Why choose at all! Have both. All at the same time. A quick browse on the Internet will turn up more food fads, fetishes and weird combinations than you ever dreamed up in your wildest imaginings. Some are sexy, some are playful, others are downright weird. Even the vegetarian society has got into the act with their very own rude video – I’ll never look at an asparagus tip in the same way again. Ever!
As for fish! Some years ago I was given the present of ‘Rude Food’, a collection of possibly the most beautiful, erotic food photography ever, created by David Thorpe, a gifted photographer. It’s still on Amazon, still in print and so it should be. Turn to the page with the Dover sole. Need I say more! Of course, certain fruit and veg always suggest the exotic, they just can’t help themselves. Bananas, cucumbers and courgettes. Sausages and hot dogs. Whatever turns you on – at least you’d be practicing safe sex. If nature doesn’t provide it in her copious larder, food manufacturers are happy to oblige. Take Spencer and Fleetwood, for instance. Their offerings include such tempting treats as candy G-strings, nookie cookies, licorice whips and lust dust.
Even if the food’s not rude, the names can be hilariously so. There’s ‘Big Nuts’ and ‘Donkey Balls’, ‘Fanny Pudding’, ‘Jerk Sauce’ and ‘Knob Biscuits’. These can be explained by a somewhat tenuous grasp of English on behalf of the marketers. But what on earth were Haribo thinking when they named their sweeties ‘Creamy Dreams’? Had Primula taken leave of their senses calling their bread rolls ‘Jussipussi’? Even respectable Mr. Heinz has got in on the act. Spotted Dick anyone? I’m pleased, but somewhat surprised, to see that that’s still around. After all, Bird’s Eye withdrew their Crispy Cod’s Balls years ago. Much to the dismay of my then teenage brother who was always eager to do the shopping when they were on the menu. We also took great delight when buying iced buns. “Six sticky willies and a packet of cod’s balls please.” The man at the corner shop just loved us!
There’s no great surprise in what people smear on their bodies in pursuit of a bit of extra excitement – olive oil, chocolate, cream, mashed potato, golden syrup, sticky toffee pudding. You may however be more startled by things people put into them. Most of us have heard of pregnant women and small children eating clay, or coal or dirt. It’s a form of a disorder called pica, characterized by an appetite for substances that would not generally be considered food. How about a nice battery for tea, or a toothbrush, some soap perhaps or a pencil. Not to make light of it pica is a genuinely distressing disorder, which can also be dangerous. Not only is there a risk of poisoning, but sharp objects may tear the stomach lining.
Less distressing, but nevertheless weird, are the fads people have for strange combinations. Thanks to the proliferation of food blogs out in Cyberspace some, which would have once appeared wacky, now seem perfectly normal. Bacon cupcakes, chili chocolate and, one of my favorites, digestive biscuits with cheddar cheese and marmalade. Slightly more odd was my ham and marmalade spaghetti – a strange phase now over. But I’m in good company. In Malaysia they eat Marmite with porridge. Some people like tongue in sweet raisin sauce, banana with mayonnaise or cheese with popcorn or Nutella and garden peas. To say nothing of those addicts who like everything frozen – M&Ms, Skittles, pickle juice and strawberries.
Food fads and fetishes are nothing new. Alexander the Great had a thing about mint. He wouldn’t t let his soldiers chew it; he thought it would over-stimulate them so they wouldn’t want to fight. What a spoilsport. Slipping further down the historical pole we come to Henry Ford. For him sugar was the enemy – he thought those little sharp granules would perforate his stomach and kill him. Maria Callas had no such fears, even though she was in far more danger from the tapeworm she swallowed. No one knows whether or not she did it on purpose, but she was chubby and got thin. Work it out.
Swallowing a tapeworm might be considered animal cruelty. Eating butterflies certainly is but that didn’t bother Vladimir Nabokov. Mind you eating insects is pretty normal in many cultures. They’re full of protein. Angelina Jolie will attest to that, having snacked on high-protein cockroaches. Saddam Hussein loved Raisin Bran Crunch and Joe Lewis, the famous boxer, would drink fresh blood before a fight. Rather more normal, but far more socially unacceptable, was Clark Gable’s fetish for eating onions. He may have been handsome as hell, but to his leading ladies the star of Gone with the Wind was simply smelly.
If today’s celebrities haven’t gone as far as swallowing tapeworms – give them time – they are well practiced in faddy diets. Oprah Winfrey swore by the acai berry. She certainly lost weight – again, and again and again. Beyoncé drinks homemade lemonade, maple syrup, water and cayenne pepper. Demi Moor eats everything raw, including meat. Reece Witherspoon eats baby food. Jennifer Lopez sniffs grapefruit oil. Christina Aguilera’s fad is even odder – she groups foods by colour – while Maria Carey eats only purple foods three times a week.
Smearing foodstuffs all over your partner and licking it off is considered fairly normal – though I doubt that as many do it as say they do. I certainly prefer my chocolate straight out of the pack and my olive oil on my salad. But then I don’t like being sticky! Even eating fish with jam or sitting on cakes doesn’t seem so bad when you hear of what some folks get up to. Take Vorarephilia, for instance, or rather don’t. Not unless you want to eat someone. Or be eaten. Now that really is taking it to extremes.
© Clodagh Phelan February 2012 www.wordswithwings.co.uk