With food scientist Harold McGee in town this evening, I'm recalling his appearance at the recent Culinary Institute of America's "Worlds of Flavor" conference, where he talked about the complexity of flavor. McGee mentioned sensations such as the sound food makes, but argued that aroma might be the foundation of taste. For while the taste receptors on the tongue help determine the pleasure of an eating experience, the aroma receptors of the nose typically "taste" the food first.
Last week at Lola, I deliberately chose the table closest to the kitchen to see some action there, but more important, to submit to the smells of Mediterranean herbs and spices. When my lamb kebabs came from that kitchen, I fell in love. Sizzling hunks of hot meat, complete with caramelized garlic and red wine glaze, and slices of red onion on the side. And a shot glass of ouzo.
So what do Lola's lamb kebabs teach us about sex?Appreciate the smell, and enhance if you wish.
My nose appreciated the smoky goodness of the lamb when I first laid eyes on it; I was already drawn to the flesh in front of me, and already tasting it before even putting my mouth on it. In fact, I instinctively leaned in for a deeper inhalation, much as I might with the nape of my partner's neck.
But before I could lay my lips on the lamb, kissing the flesh and even take a nibble, the server snapped me out of my trance and admonished me to move back. She then took the glass of ouzo and splashed it on the plate so that it barely brushed against the flesh of the lamb, using it to help caramelize the onions.
The intoxicating scent of anise hit me with hurricane force and, just as quickly, all but disappeared. But by then I was hooked. This lamb was to be mine.
Not everyone needs fragrance, be it cologne or perfume. Your natural smell is unique to you, and will likely be intoxicating to someone else. That said, sometimes you want to mix things up, enhance to entrance a special someone. Find an appropriate fragrance. Don't overdo it. Be subtle, applying it sparingly and strategically. Think of your pulse points and special spots (inner wrists, glandular points of the neck, elbow, chest, etc.), rather than pouring or spraying it everywhere.
Unless it's ouzo.
I'll never forget that ouzo aroma, and when I smell it again, I'll likely remember her: that lovely plate of lamb. Problem is, I'll be falling in love over and over again, when I'm eating fennel candy after an Indian meal, cutting Thai basil when preparing green curry, or entering my favorite licorice shop in Vancouver (where I'll be next Thursday, when Sexy Feast takes a week off for the holiday). Actually, though, that remembrance is something to embrace--a reminder of what, or who, we love.