A knife slides seductively down a slender stalk of celery. A plump loaf of rye splits to reveal a seductive sprinkling of seeds. Tender slices of brisket fall on a cutting board as a voice-over moans “you’re driving me meshuggeneh” before dissolving into a breathy series of “oys.”
Sound like a bizarre fetish video better left to the dark corners of the Internet? Actually, this awkwardly literal foray into food porn is meant for public consumption. It’s a promotion for Kutsher’s Tribeca, which calls itself a “modern Jewish American bistro” in New York that wants to make Jewish food “sexy.”
But does Jewish food need sexing up? Implying it does is shorthand for saying it’s gone stale. But as anyone who’s partaken of American Jewish cuisine, be it a piled-high pastrami or a humble hamentashen, can tell you it’s delicious. And these days, there’s no shortage of chefs eager to tap into tradition and turn out posh matzo brei and borscht-inspired beet salad for brunchers — not that there’s anything wrong with that. Jewish food is still fresh.
You don’t need to see the movie “American Pie” to know that there’s a complicated, but very real relationship between food and sex. Earlier this month, an Islamic cleric in Europe called for a ban on women touching the seemingly innocuous banana and cucumber, for fear that foods resembling male sex organs would arouse them.
Even innocent cookies have been linked to such wanton behavior. Loved by Girl Scouts and other s’mores aficionados, the graham cracker was originally developed by Reverend Sylvester Graham in 1829 as a way to stifle sexual desires. And if Islam and Christianity have complicated histories conflating food with sex and repressing the desires associated with both, then it’s not surprising that the religion behind both Sigmund Freud and the plump Hebrew National dog must, too.