Sex & Sociability

Question and commentary on connections, both sexual and social

Sex and Food

The same careful preparation is needed to make both sex and food memorable.

My sweetie and I had an extraordinary evening recently. I was invited to a dinner in a San Franciscan restaurant unknown to me to be hosted by a PR company promoting olives from Spain. Every course centered on olives and the young chef was up for the challenge—olive croquetas, olive empanadas, olive stuffed piquillo peppers, olive and seafood pinchos, and olive and chicken albondigas. If you aren’t familiar with all or any of these you are in good company. Neither was I.

My partner likes olives so he was game to accompany me but I must tell you he is no “foodie.” Other than my banana bread, which he says he likes, most things he eats at home or in restaurants he deems just “all right.” In fact, his laconic response to food is so well known that my family answers for him when we eat together and I ask how he likes something they all say in unison along with him: “All right.”

But this evening was different. Starting with the unexpected and intriguing invitation, and the lovely ambiance of the new to us restaurant, we both enjoyed everything. We were greeted warmly, offered a choice of wines and some nibbles as soon as we came in. We were carefully seated with our choice of chair or banquette. The music in the background did not intrude, nor did the various PR people and restaurant staff who came to chat with us.

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We were presented with course after course of small plates at a steady pace but we certainly were not rushed. Each was more fabulous than the next. I skipped several plates because they contained seafood which I do not eat, but my usually unenthusiastic partner raved at the deliciousness of each and reached for seconds. When we felt we could not take another bite a lovely little dessert of chocolate somethings was offered and the charming young chef came to chat with us, sharing some history of the restaurant itself and his own personal life.

Afterward we walked out into the mild evening hand in hand, smiling and feeling complete and happy, each silent in our own thoughts. Because it’s what I do, I was thinking how the evening was like a top notch sexual experience. (Did you think this essay was simply a restaurant review?)

So often in my career as a relationship counselor I have seen couples who come to see me complaining that all the zest has gone out of their sex lives. It has become blah and unexciting and predictable. It is my job to teach (or remind) them how different it could be if they put some thought into the event. This wonderful evening at Canela Bistro in San Francisco’s Castro district offered a perfect metaphor for a memorable sexual encounter.

First, interest was piqued by an unexpected invitation. We were going to go to a new place for a new experience. In the lives of long term couples, sex is often just a given. If a night away from the routine is offered, desire for sex is often heightened too, and anticipated. “Vacation sex,” like “make-up sex” is fabled for being way better than average.

But it doesn’t even have to be away from home. A flirtatious note or email or murmured comment about what might happen later is enough to light the spark of anticipation.

When the couple arrives, even to their own bedroom, the ambience and pacing have to be attended to. Change something (even if it’s just the sheets!). Flowers or a candle or new bedding, even the radio on to a new music station, will provide the gracious touches that demonstrate that some thought went into this event, that it might be something special.

I mentioned pacing. Couples who have a history of sex together often have a routine. The fact that they do the same things in the same way is exactly what takes the joy of the unexpected out of sex. So pace the sexual event. Start slowly. Take care. Do something that takes thought, however small. Offer new small happenings like a kiss in an unexpected place or a caress in a different manner. Anything that is small and caring and out of the ordinary will make the participants perk up and take the time to actively enjoy what is happening. If you always put your tongue in her mouth when you kiss passionately, don’t. If you usually don’t then do. It’s a small thing, the unexpected thing, that sparkles.

Then, when it’s over, this carefully executed sexual event, when you are both replete, then add one little something more. Don’t roll over and go to sleep right away, however tempting. Offer the sexual equivalent of a chocolate bon bon or two to end it on a note of unexpected sweetness. Telling your partner how much you appreciate him or her would certainly do it.

A good meal takes a great deal of careful preparation. A memorable evening certainly does. Can a memorable sexual event take any less attention? What I’ve given are some menu suggestions. You can be creative like any top rate chef and add your own touches.

Isadora AlmanM.F.T., is a Board-certified sex, marriage, and family therapist, lecturer, author, and syndicated advice columnist of "Ask Isadora."

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