That affectionate phrase has always enchanted me, partly because I’ve never heard it lavished upon me personally. It implies some essential, personal deliciousness, innate sweetness, utter adorability; who wouldn’t want to be spoon-edible? (If you’re the person who rather aspires to be picked up and chomped on, sparerib-style, I might have something for you next week.)
Moreover, the things we want to eat with a spoon are soft, tender, yielding, or a little elusive–things we don’t want to miss a drop of, morsels deserving of the gentle utensil’s caress.
I began contemplating this, with the help of some Lambrusco, when a panna cotta arrived at my table last Thursday night at the Hostaria Savonarola in Ferrara. It occurred to me about halfway through this divine Piedmontese dessert of, literally, “cooked cream” that it was texturally rich but only subtly sweet, and that the pool of dark caramel on the plate had an earthy nuttiness about it and a faint, pleasant bitterness in the finish.
I could suddenly relate.
Voluptuaries through the ages join me in proclaiming the oyster the nonpareil of erotic foods. The reasons for its reputed aphrodisiac powers are numerous, and many of them are obvious. M.F.K. Fisher sums it up tidily in Consider the Oyster: “Most of them are physiological . . . and have to do with an oyster’s odor, its consistency, and probably its strangeness”.
It’s true that the very act of prizing open an oyster and looking at the mysterious creature, frilled and translucent in its saline habitat, might induce the same voyeuristic flush, however unintended, as a moment in front of Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du monde. And if you ask me, there’s something inherently lusty about slurping a live creature from its shell with all its liquor–which is the only way to do it, really. One would have to eat a great many oysters to benefit from their nutritional content (the oyster is rich in zinc, which boosts testosterone production), but the great seducers of yore seemed to have no trouble polishing off a hundred at a time, to allegedly great effect.