La Figa: Visions of Food and Form
For me, the sensuality of food closely resembles the pleasures of sex. From the first bite of a meal, the body is catapulted into rapture through the last climatic bite. A delicious morsel is as sweet as the first kiss. — Tiberio Simone
When I first tore off the envelope of my review copy of La Figa: Visions of Food and Form, I didn’t know what to think. I was puzzled, and admittedly, a little shocked. The book bursts of Chef Tiberio Simone’s edible artwork. The pages are splashed with lively, bright, sensual creations marrying the flesh of food and the human form…all immortalized by photographer Matt Freedman; each photograph meticulously orchestrated, a labor of love. Yet was this just a gimmick? A ploy to push sex to market a book?
The substantial and glossy hardcover sat for a couple of weeks on a large wooden sideboard at the edge of my kitchen. Waiting.
Last night, I finally decided to curl up on my worn leather couch and move beyond the photos to the words that also adorned the pages.
As I read and flipped through the book, Chef Tiberio mentally titillated and amused me by juxtaposing stories of childhood joys with advice on how to stimulate sexual pleasure. In speaking about the cucumber he recalls: “We rolled around, laughing hysterically, as we stuffed cucumbers in our pants and pretended to be big men seducing women.” Only a few sentences later he gives very grownup, practical advice: “I have known people who have used it as a sexual toy…Select a cucumber that is a little soft and pliable. Those fresh, crispy ones might break.” Shocking … and yet we are only on page 25 with over 150 more pages to go!
As I ventured deeper into the world of Chef Tiberio, I started to see more profound facets of his work that were not so apparent at first glance. The stories, suggestions and recipes inspire spiritual joy and are soulfully nurturing.
His recipes explore food in its most natural forms, using only light adornments of seasoning and processing to accentuate their ripeness and freshness. He passionately writes about healthy, real food. He recounts the unforgettable experience of biting into a real tomato, “the rush of flavor, the gush of juice”. A tomato that is picked at its ripeness, not the tasteless kind that is found year round in grocery stores, ripened in warehouses. I know what he is talking about. The first time I grew tomatoes in my vegetable garden was the first time I had “real” tomatoes. They were incredible and inspired this recipe, “Live Simply” tomato and feta salad.
While food nurtures from within, Chef Tiberio proposes that human touch nurtures from the outside and is just as important. Both beautiful. I find it interesting that cookbooks have a lot of closeups of the food at different stages. Instead, this book is full of naked food and naked bodies. The recipes are just a string of words, one needs to imagine how they will appear when created. Perhaps Chef Tiberio wants words to inspire creativity in cooking and the photos to inspire creativity in love making.
It is these deeper messages that I find to be the true gift of his work. Reading Chef Tiberio’s book is like running for six miles on a damp morning, taking a hot shower and curling up with a strawberry arugula salad with a hint of olive oil and then snuggling up to your loved one.
It is fulfilling, cathartic and nurturing.
Tiberio Simone at TEDx
4 out of 5 stars (Very Good)
By Chef Tiberio Simone
Photographed by Matt Freedman
Hardcover, 192 pages, 2011