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Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses Paperback – April 7, 1999
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There is something about reading suggestive material that awakens the senses--too often ignored in the fray of modern life--and fires the imagination. Perhaps it brings us back to those breathless, palpitating moments from childhood when puberty was a rosy smudge on the horizon and sex was an abstract term. Aphrodite is a long, savory, enthralling ode to sensuality.
In this bawdy memoir-cum-cookbook, Allende has put together an apothecary of aphrodisiacs, from snake's blood and rhinoceros horn to the more commonplace and more palatable oysters, "those seductive tears of the sea, which lend themselves to slipping from mouth to mouth like a prolonged kiss ... can be purchased in bottles, but there they look like malignant tumors; in contrast, moist and turgid in their shells they suggest delicate vulvae--a prime example of food that appeals to the eye." Chapters such as "Alligators and Piranhas"; "Supreme Stimulus for Lechery"; "Bread, God's Grace"; "Forbidden Fruits"; and "The Saucy Way to Foreplay" offer categorical listings on the aphrodisiac qualities of meats, spices, fruits and vegetables, and alcohol. A few chapters into the book, one begins to wonder what foods aren't considered erotic: "the shape of the wheat head is considered phallic, which proves human imagination knows no limits." Wine (no surprise there) is recommended because "it lessens inhibitions, relaxes, and fosters joy, three fundamental requirements for good performance, not only in bed but at the piano as well." However, as in many situations, moderation is key: too much and you may find your guest asleep in the soup.
Allende dismisses nouvelle cuisine in favor of earthier foods and more satisfying portions. More than 100 recipes are provided, from sauces and soups to hors d'oeuvres, supplemented with her voluptuous commentary. Recipes such as Mykonos Sauce, with walnuts, pistachios, basil, garlic, and milk; Widower's Figs; Filet Mignon Belle Epoque; and Alicante Cream Soup, with leeks, shrimp, oysters, paprika, and cream will have you in an apron (and perhaps not much else) in no time.
"If cookbooks make up part of your library," Allende notes, "books on eroticism should, too." And what more delightful combination of the two than Aphrodite, which provocatively underscores the relationship between sustenance and sexuality, and the aphrodisiac qualities of watching a man cook: "[Women] suppose that if he can remember how many minutes frog legs can tolerate in the skillet, how much greater reason he will have to remember how many tickles our G spot demands." Spiced with litanies of lust and longing from Anais Nin, W.B. Yeats, Pablo Neruda, and Lady Onogoro, and enriched with Allende's warm humor and lusty joie de vive, Aphrodite will tantalize your senses and engender lascivious grins. Recommended in delicious but moderate doses, this book is not for the faint of ... er, heart. --Jhana Bach --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Sex and food, once celebrated as two of life's great joys, suffer a lot of bad press these days. Genuine epidemics, coupled with monthly findings of new things that are bad for us, have pushed otherwise happy souls into programs of agonizing denial and, in severe instances, abstinence. Thankfully, in this sophisticated defense of pleasure, novelist Allende (The House of the Spirits) puts the joy back into eating and loving with all the panache that marks the best of her fiction. Though passionate about her subject, she remains consistently whimsical with this mix of anecdotes, recipes and advice designed to enhance any romantic encounter. As always, her secret weapon is honesty: "Some [aphrodisiacs] have a scientific basis, but most are activated by the imagination." Allende's vivacity and wit are in full bloom as she makes her pronouncements: "There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill"; "When you make an omelet, as when you make love, affection counts for more than technique." Her book is filled with succinct wisdom and big laughs. Despite sections titled "The Orgy" and "Supreme Stimulus for Lechery," Allende comes down emphatically for romance over sex and for ritual over flavor in a work that succeeds in being what it intends to be?fun from the first nibble to the last.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Like many aphrodisiacs, there is some unique trigger that connected two synapses in my brain, between Isabel Allende, and Andrea Dworkin. Surely a unique coupling. No question Dworkin had a tough life, how much was self-inflicted is beside the point. Dworkin though focused on all the unpleasantness in male and female relationships, was light-years away from any eroticism, and died early. Allende could have focused on the unpleasant aspects of her life--being the niece who the Salvador Allende, who died in the CIA coup against the democratically elected government of Chile in 1973, on September 11th even. She was forced into exile, to Venezuela initially, carrying a small bag of dirt from her garden, her homeland, that she knew she might never see again. Yet she chose to celebrate the aspects that make life worth living, good food, and love.
And it is her writing that is the ultimate strength of this book. She is playful and witty, and certainly suggestive, coquettish even, and you feel confident she would not lead you down a path unrequited. In preparation for the book, she has read broadly from the world's literature, on the nexus between food and eroticism, and has spun some marvelous vignettes. It seems inappropriate to highlight a few, at the expense of the rest, but nonetheless, I particularly liked "A Night in Egypt," "Creatures of the Sea," and "Colomba in Nature."
There are so many numerous "takeaways," as those harried will say, including her quote of Oscar Wilde, that "love is a mutual misunderstanding." And how can one ever eat almonds again without thinking about Cybele?
A rich magnum of kudos to Allende. She wrote this book when she was 50, which she said was the beginning of the reflective age. Now she is 60, or a bit more, an age that the ancient Greeks considered appropriate for putting aside the matters of the flesh, and for concentrating on the philosophical problems of life. I suspect it will be one aspect of Greek wisdom that Allende will not assimilate, and that garlic, asparagus, eggplant, and so much more will continue to pass her lips.
Thanks for a most inspirational book.
As a writer myself who has written both a cookbook and about the erotic lives of people over fifty, I found Allende's honesty, sensuality, and joy utterly luscious and also comforting in that even as we grow older we have our senses and can celebrate them as long as we allow ourselves to. This is a beautiful book with wonderful illustrations including the sexiest peaches you will ever see. The recipes are intriguing. But more than anything it is an affirmation that our senses have the power to heal us and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.