Today is a special anniversary for the Saucy Dressings’ Chief Taster and myself.
I don’t know how I got hold of it, but a while ago a copy of Mimi Sheraton’s The Seducer’s Cookbook, fell into my hands and I’ve been quietly chuckling my way through it since. It’s a truly delightful read, first published in 1964 (oh, the sixties!), and in the introduction Mrs Sheraton explains that:
“What we are concerned with here is the delectable and subtle art of luring, tempting, enticing, leading someone into going to bed with you in the most delightful way possible.”
Useful for both sexes then. And just because you are ‘in a relationship’ as the internet would have you put it, why should this highly pleasurable art have to cease. On the contrary, shouldn’t one be striving constantly to hone one’s skills in this regard?
This is especially the case if you are female because, as Mrs Sheraton puts it (feminists, look away now):
“…even if a woman doesn’t want marriage, she does want a considerably longer affair than a man may require….mostly because she needs a man around for a lot of collateral reasons – going out to dinner and nightclubs, supporting her, changing fuses, fixing the hi-fi, and taking out the garbage. Therefore the spell she casts must be a memorable one, one that sets her apart from other women he may know and makes him come back for more. That is where the recipes come in”.
On the other hand, men also want to seduce, for reasons too obvious to mention, and food can be one of the principal weapons in their armoury – a prop which can set a short man a veritable head and shoulders above an unculinarily-savvy Goliath of a rival.
So to mark the date I’m writing a post outlining the lessons to be learnt from this gently wise and useful handbook, adding in anything else helpful I might have picked up during the course of my own romantic sparring.
Regarding the essential role of the recipes, I was delighted to see that I had already done much of the footslogging. Many of the recipes…. or perhaps I should more accurately say, ‘course concepts’…. have already been fully covered on Saucy Dressings. Where that is the case I have, of course, added helpful links. Many others are in the pipeline, watch this space.
How to Get Him to Marry You
Chapter Six, for example, specifically aimed at the ladies, covers How To Get Him To Marry You in the first place. There is much practical advice: don’t let your aim be too obvious, ensure your flat looks permanent (it should not appear merely a place to ‘light between men’), buy a decent bed.
Then there is a menu for the first meal in your campaign. The food should be the kind “he basically loves – meat and potatoes and apple pie, but with a difference”. We’re talking:
And there is also another meal: “any woman in search of a clincher should acquaint herself with the advantages of Sunday breakfast”. This might include:
- Grilled orange slices with brown sugar
- Scrambled eggs with caraway seeds
- Pan-fried ham, aromatic with ginger
I can vouch for the scrambled eggs, as that is what I, successfully, tried myself.
The Déjeuner sur L’Herbe – radishes are the thing
Then there is The Déjeuner sur L’Herbe – the romantic picnic. In my own experience great care needs to be taken regarding the location. Dangers lurk both in the forms of curious dogs and small children, as well as in other types of wildlife such as ant hills, nettle bushes etc.
Mrs Sheraton advises wine to accompany this meal, “and just this once, please, for Cupid’s sake, carry stemmed wine glasses instead of paper cups”.
The menu for this situation is advisedly simple: potted lobster, sliced smoked tongue, cucumber sandwiches on pumpernickel with dill butter, chèvre…. but I would combine the suggested marinated mushrooms and breast of chicken into a sublime ballottine.
I’m wholly with the radishes with butter though. An excellent suggestion, albeit dependent on the quality of the ingredients for success. Try French Breakfast radishes which have crisp, crunchy, cylindrical roots and a strong, peppery flavour. Take a sharp knife, and cut in chilled unsalted French butter (or Kerrygold is very good). Adorn with some textured sea or rock salt – Maldon for example.
Adventures on the sea – take herb-buttered French bread
Chapter Eight covers the romantic potential of a maritime excursion (more aimed at gents, this chapter). “You want a girl”, advises Mrs Sheraton, “who already has a good coat of suntan, else she’ll be swaddled in yard goods or slippery with cocoa butter to keep from frying on the open sea, neither of which suits your purposes too well”.
There is a whole post to come warning against the dangers of cabbage in the galley, and advocating watermelon. But the menu in the handbook is simple: iced lobster, white grapes, champagne…. and herb-buttered French bread. The suggested herbs are parsley, chervil, dill and thyme; but you could also experiment with a whole range of flavoured butters.
Then there is The Ploy
Mrs Sheraton explains that she discovered this effective strategy entirely by accident. Having invited her man over intending to impress him, the entire meal was ruined by a breathtakingly unlikely mix of breakages and burning. Her suitor strides into the breach, becomes the hero of the hour, producing, with a flourish and some modest murmurings, a pasta anointed with an oil and garlic sauce (post to come). “Funny thing was, this man was so swept away by his own masculine ability that he proposed that very night out of sheer self-satisfaction.”
I’m not wholly convinced about Mrs Sheraton’s (or Miriam Solomon’s, as she was then) psychology on this one. An alternative theory is that her man may just have seen the frighteningly intelligent, capable, and elegant beauty that she’d been up to then as a loveable mortal, capable of endearing mistakes.
But you are looking for a result, so either way this is a ploy worth employing. Every man ought to be able to fix a conveniently easily curdled hollandaise sauce for example (go here if you can’t). Otherwise, try something that needs to be set alight, most men are suffused with instinctive confidence when it comes to fire, there’s something neanderthal about the whole process.
The ‘Little Supper’ after the opera or a play
There is also the post-theatre, ‘come up to my place for a quick bite’ collation. There’s lots more practical advice in The Seducer’s Cookbook about this including reminders about pre-booking the taxi, and hoping that “Marlon Brando won’t be running around in torn underwear” in whatever drama you take your girl to.
This meal begins with sherry and hot roasted almonds (I would suggest Marcona). The main event is a cold beef Wellington and a vegetable salad with a tarragon mayonnaise.
All of this is accompanied by a Mouton, a Lafite-Rothschild or a Romanée-Conti. Love comes at a price sometimes….. but I might have suggested a slightly less bankrupting Priorat.
There’s the opportunist approach
There trick here is to seek potential in ‘respectable’ places, thus raising the common pick-up up to a cultured and acceptable level – think museums, libraries (remember this was written in 1964 when these still existed), department stores, shareholders’ meetings (you can gate crash if you aren’t a shareholder, at least you used to be able to), adult education courses, parks (nothing too obvious – we’re talking zoos, skating rinks and summer concerts), markets, and even ‘foreign trade fairs, business shows and such’.
“If your tastes lean to the exotic, by all means stick to international fairs, since they’re staffed by native beauties,”
….or not. Either way, however, the strategy here is to possess a larder and fridge heaving with instant, easy and elegant culinary bait. Mrs Sheraton suggests, among other things, artichoke hearts and roasted peppers. tins of white beans (all types), and, I was astonished to read, tinned potatoes, which apparently can be drained, sliced and sautéed to very good effect. For Saucy Dressings’ suggestions, go to larder standby tuna pie; or eight things to do with confit de canard.
And finally…. the reinvention strategy
“Something, you think, is wrong. Of course, you still love your husband or wife, but the old excitement is gone….while seducing one’s own spouse might not sound like the most exciting idea, there’s an awful lot to be said for it.”
Mrs Sheraton’s advice to husbands aiming to re-seduce their wives is to consider some candlelit-accompanied chicken liver pâté with added chopped pistachios.
The suggestion for wives is crayfish, but I think large langoustes might be more efficacious. That, at least, is what I’m trying this evening.
Mimi Sheraton went on to become the first female food critic at The New York Times, and has since carved a stellar career as a food writer.
On the other hand
How to un-seduce
M F K Fisher, also had a stellar career as a food writer.
In An Alphabet For Gourmets, written in 1949, she sets out how to go about flooring your man, ‘like a stunned ox, and turn him, not matter how unwittingly on his part, into a slumberous lump of masculine inactivity’.
These would be some of the weapons she would suggest for her ‘hideous plan’.
- one too many Martinis, that is, about three
- generous, rich, salty Italian hors d’oeuvres – things that would lead him on
- something he no longer wanted but could not resist, something like a ragout of venison, or squabs stuffed with mushrooms and wild rice
- I would waste no time on a salad, unless perhaps a freakish rich one treacherously containing truffles and new potatoes
- the dessert would be cold, superficially refreshing and tempting, but venomous: a chilled bowl of figs soaked in kirsch, with heavy cream
- a small bottle of Sauterne, sly and icy
- a small cup of coffee so black and bitter that my victim could not down it, even therapeutically