I'll be honest, I am hardly the first person to look into this. But it's just that, as a person so deeply involved in food, some things can catch you off guard. Like vodka inside a pani puri and sometimes, even what people choose to call the stuff they put on their menu. A rage on the internet—in terms of keywords and search—I learnt was something called the Pornstar Martini. Five years of writing about food, and I hadn't even heard of it. "Is this for real?" I thought to myself, as I unsuspectingly entered a new rabbit hole. Only to emerge from it, with a lot of ultra-dork-level info that I don't know what else to do with, except write about.
As it were, Pornstar Martini (gosh, it's so hard to even type it without feeling awkward), isn't the only dish/drink name with a sexual innuendo. Think Sex on the Beach, a classic cocktail; Great Britain's favourite main, Bangers and Mash; a candy called Maynard's Juicy Squirts; the steak that's better known as Memphis Dry Rub; German chocolate, Super Dickmann's and American brand Grace Foods' soup mix that's—believe it or not—simply called Cock. What were they thinking? I am not sure. But when I poked Dr Nahid Dave, a psychiatrist and friend I've known for a while now, she clarified that it was not only not uncommon to draw associations between food and sex, but also, highly natural.
The suffix 'gasm,' she tells me, is used to signify the highest level of passion. Whether you're using it as an expression in food or mood, the idea is to indicate depth or intensity.
"Certain food items, due to its smell, texture, or colour may jolt your memory and remind you of a person or moment. Or in your head, lead you to form an association with something sexual… there may not always be a logical explanation for it, because these cues provide raw data and your interpretation depends on internal memories," she explains, while probably wondering what the hell is wrong with me.
But the longer I pondered on it, the more it made sense. I mean, isn't my single-ready-to-mingle BFF always "getting some sugar?" And did I not, without even so much as batting an eyelid, called that chocolate mousse "orgasmic" on the office Whatsapp group? Then why single out Douglas Ankrah, right? To give you some context, Ankrah was the owner of the LAB London bar in London where the Pornstar Cocktail surfaced in 1999. Since then, Ankrah had been embroiled in several controversies surrounding this peculiar choice of name, including being called a proponent/fan of pornography. But he went on record denying accusations of sensationalisation and clarified that he called the drink so because it was "stylish and confident drink...[that's]….pure indulgence, sexy, fun and evocative [sic]".
Turns out, sex and food have more in common than I (we?) would like to concede—indulgence, temptation and guilty pleasures are common to both. Whether it's an anticipated meal at the restaurant you just can't seem to get a reservation at or a hot date for which you have been doing Pilates all week, you have expectations, emotional connectedness and if all goes well, satisfaction from both. Not to mention the neurological connection between sex and food, given that both help in the production of phenylethylamine (PEA) and norepinephrine, which are responsible for making our bodies feel giddy, alive and charged up. Does that explain why whoever came up with the word 'foodgasm' did so? Erm, to an extent, I guess.
Suman Quazi is a Writer, Host and the Food Editor with India Food Network and Start2Bake. She believes that while food is cultural, societal and intellectual, it is also deeply personal and is keen in contributing towards a dialogue around food in India that's meaningful. Her work has appeared in leading Indian publications like Midday, Living Foodz, Zee Zest, Deccan Chronicle, 101India and DailyO.