Finding Sex, Food, and Inspiration in La Figa

by on June 28, 2011

Over the years, I’ve had many inspiring moments in the world of sex. In Montreal, I saw Annie Sprinkle do a sex-positive solo performance called Sluts and Goddesses that included her “public cervix announcement.”

After speaking at the World Congress of Sexology in Amsterdam, I enjoyed a dance with adult film star turned feminist porn director Candida Royalle. And back here in the States, I once shared the stage with Joycelyn Elders, speaking to an audience of student leaders from across the country. (I enjoyed a reunion with her last month at a sexology conference in San Francisco.)

These people, like I, have been called pleasure activists. And now I’ve met another one.

Meet Tiberio Simone. He’s teamed with photographer Matt Freedman to put together La Figa: Visions of Food and Form. As a sex educator and food writer, I highly recommend this provocative book for your bedroom, kitchen, or coffee table. It’s inspiring.

Simone is an Italian import who’s had a storied life. His colorful words describe his early memories of food to his current work as a chef in the catering business. Simone’s enjoyed success, creating a winning concoction in a pastry competition that the James Beard Foundation sponsored in 1995. (To clarify some confusion, this is not the same as winning a James Beard Award, given to one pastry chef per year who serves as a national standard-bearer for excellence.)

Even more captivating is what Freedman’s camera captured: beautiful photos of Simone’s artful way of decorating bodies with fruits, vegetables, chocolate, and more. Using flesh as a canvas for food, Simone and Freedman have collaborated to create a celebration of food, sex, and the connections between them. As much as I enjoy paging through La Figa, I find joy in watching other people look at the book for the first time. This is real food porn.

The foods are diverse, from mangoes to mushrooms, and artichokes to avocados. Same with the bodies. Models include women and men, young and old, different races and ethnicities, bodies types, and, surely, sexual orientation.

I appreciate the descriptions of different ways to view, handle, prepare, and eat some sensual food items.

Take, for example, cucumbers. Simone recalls his days working on a cucumber farm, waiting for lunch break to taste the fruits of his labor, which resulted in “an explosion of joy inside me—just like an orgasm.” He reminds readers of the phallic nature of cucumbers, provides a recipe for a simple (as most of his preparations are, allowing the ingredients to shine) cucumber salad, and includes mesmerizing photos of models wearing only thinly sliced cucumbers that reveal the contours of the body.

Sex sells seemingly everything in our society: computers, cars, food, and even food writers. While some food writers use sex gratuitously to sell their writing (and themselves), it’s refreshing to find another person who’s made a sincere commitment to the cause of sex-positivity.

If Alex Corcoran is, thus far, this year’s “Sex-Negative Loser” for letting his sexual discomfort be reason to censor my “Hot Plate” feature for Edible Seattle, then Simone is currently this year’s “Sex-Positive Winner” for La Figa.

Boil it down, and Simone is all about food, touch, and love. A conversation with him winds around those themes. Some snippets :

  • On public nudity: “All men should have to wear bras—then they’ll understand women’s experience, and topless will soon be okay.”
  • On U.S. views about sex: “Kids go from puberty to pornography, with nothing in between. There are no nude statues like in Europe. No bodies to celebrate. To enjoy.”
  • On U.S. views about food: “We abuse food here. Everything that ‘s taboo here, we eat in moderation there [Italy], like cheese, meats, wine. Here, portions are too big. Just look at the portion size of ice cream and gelato.”
  • On Seattle’s most sensual restaurant: “My home. But if you ask my most sensual cuisine, it’s Japanese, especially raw sushi.”
  • On the most sensual foods: “Chocolate. Fig. Mango. And especially sea urchin. I just scoop it out and eat it with bread.”

Simone, I second the motion on sea urchin. (I like mine with just a little soy sauce.). And speaking of food and sex: What’s funny is that when I ask people what part of the sea urchin they’re eating, very few know. Don’t know yourself? Look it up. You’ll go nuts next time you partake.

Inspired by the likes of Simone, I’ll be launching a new feature about sex, food, and more starting next month. Stay tuned…

Filed under Eats, Food, FOOD_FEATURED

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