Sex on a Platter
Have you ever had a meal prepared for you before where the woman working in the kitchen danced about the counter tops like the painter Jackson Pollock moved around the canvas? I expect cooking to be a process where the cook pays attention to the recipe. “Anyone who can read can baste, brew, batter, beat, blanch, bake, braise, barbecue and blend,” a systematic creature of analytical method might say. Lilly Harley does not operate so. “I’m a creator, not a line chef repeating the same old dish time-after-time!” she declares. Harley doesn’t own a restaurant. Eventually, when she does, as is inevitable given her zeal, food won’t be about consistency, but about amuses bouches and taste experience in the vein of modern eateries that offer specials. Lilly worships the idea of being as open to anything and everything as she can. Even dining in the dark, a trend creeping into our global paradigm, appeals to her. “No boundaries! Let us heighten the senses beyond sight to those of sound, scent, taste and touch, increasing gastronomic pleasure in a kind of blind patrons’ café where every course is sex on a platter and equally as gratifying,” is this cuisinier’s mantra.
As a part of her particular psychosis, Lilly rides a flaming horse within herself. This means she must daily tame the beast before the beast tames her. “It’s as if I can’t escape myself,” she laments, “ or the squirrels running any which way inside my head.” For Jackson Pollock, painting was choreography, a terrible trip the light fantastic in which he intuitively chased mysterious harmonies that are the fractals, the snowflakes, seashells, branching trees and peacock feathers of the natural world. Lilly Harley’s canvas is the plate, her medium food. Like Jackson Pollock’s samba in the studio, Harley’s conga in the kitchen, far from disorganized or careless, is grounded in rhythm. This goddess has learned that when she allows herself to progress from a flowing through to a staccato condition followed by a dissolution into chaos, what comes out on the other side can be unpredictable and new, something magical with no precedent. Cooking as choreography with mind-of-no-mind, the movement language language of the ancients that led to tonal communication and speech, for Lilly, is the fastest way to quiet the brain. It empties her and offers her, in a word, bliss.
In this brave new world where the borders between yang and yin are becoming blurred, male can be more than bright, dry, hard, active, penetrating and controlling; female can be more than dark, wet, tender, containing, receptive and consenting. It is in the artistic feat that these exquisite and equal energies are most in the process of shape shifting into the other. When not in the kitchen, Lilly Harley’s emotions can sit close to the surface. She connects easily with people because the restraints inhibiting social intercourse in most of us are not in Lilly’s psychology. Lilly can explode into friendship that may not last the test of time. She sometimes demands a yes-or-no answer, attempting to separate what is grey into black and white, yet wants unchallenged latitude for herself. Despite her affableness, she can emit a quality of detachment, disconnectedness, indifference and unpredictability, a lack of empathy more often associated with an aloof feline than an amiable dog. Lilly the woman projects faith in her own absolute authority. A brilliant but ornery-spirited Cheshire Cat with a reality of her own, she might disappear for a week, tail first, leaving not even a smile.
When getting her hands into the vegetables, however, all this changes. Lilly metamorphosizes. No longer the archetypal rebel-without-a-cause figure that is Jackson Pollock, Harley waltzes balletically into an elegant universe and becomes the androgynous and subtle Boy George, the rock star chameleon of her 1980s fascination. Like a silken spider’s web, she is strong and delicate all at once, sensing everything in her evanescent orb. “Do you really want to hurt me?” she sings. Lilly, though, no longer cares. The squirrels racing helter-skelter inside her head have become synaesthetic. Color overlaps with texture, and the smell of a sizzling stir fry sounds like stars. It is here, beyond space-time, that the lamb chop freeplays with the parsnip and, knee hooked inside knee, thigh against thigh, loved but unpossessed, the beetroot, wrapped by the dreaming prawn, floats in a blushing blanket of sky.
“Sex on a platter,” Lilly exclaims, “Order up!”
Author’s note: The character, Lilly Harley, is fictional. Any resemblance to persons real or imagined is unintended.
Jada Griffin, copyright, May 2019