Perfection, except that it was in Manchester - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent

Perfection, except that it was in Manchester

FOOD IS a bore. Doesn't work, either. You get hungry, you eat it, but it doesn't last. After a while you get hungry and you eat more food. On it goes. And the fuss. Did you see the television programme about that horrible chef, the common one who goes red in the face and says "fuck" a lot? Who would want to eat food cooked by a man like that? Arms dealers, that's who; corporate hatchet-men, entrepreneurs, expenses experts: porky gits with bought-and-paid-for, nip-and-tuck girlfriends. You see them in fancy restaurants all over London, waving their credit cards at each other. The company that invents a credit card which can swell up and ejaculate is going to make a fortune.

And look at them: he, shiny-faced in his flash mohair suiting; she, an over-scented hardbody with rubber breasts. A threat of violence masquerading as sexual charge between them; his hand on her arm, hurting her subtly. Eat it, girly. And then the Mercedes, the underground garage, the interior- designed apartment, the vicious bed. In the morning she will take her wages in whatever form they are paid, then get on the phone to her girlfriends: God he's awful: ugly, vulgar, impotent, but rich. Darling, the dinner!

Food. The backing-track to all those acts of cruelty, betrayal, deception. Precursor to a billion little adventures: the personal ad in Private Eye, the hook baited and swallowed, the line drawn tight: Dentist, assertive, traditional, unattached, seeks fluffy, pref. desperate woman. The tremulous drive to the assignation, flushed with anticipation. The dinner: the food, the glances, the carefully controlled conversation. Then the hotel room - "You don't have to go just yet, do you?" - the mind changed but the body committed, please God let him be the one I want him to be. But no. Like the food: satiety followed by emptiness.

But every now and then you hear of something lovely. A man called Philippe Cauviere rang me up from the Crown Plaza in Manchester. He was arranging the first ever Perfume Luncheon. A dining room full of women; a specially designed menu; accompanying each course, a perfume, with exegesis by my hero, Roja Dove from Guerlain. Can you imagine anything better?

Yes. It could have been in France, not Manchester. But, apart from that, perfection: food, women, perfume. In the old days I'd have gone along on the pull, hoping to sit next to some huge-eyed beauty, a little sad, married to some thug or ratbag from a merchant bank, probably called Gerald, who buys the little woman whatever she wants (providing it's what he wants her to want) but hasn't a clue what is going on in her mind. I'd have talked to her about perfume. This is Jacques Guerlain's masterpiece but how terrible that he should have died without ever smelling it on you. Then the coffee and Armagnac and You don't have to go just yet, do you? And off we go again.

Times change, though, and I can't be doing with that sort of nonsense any more. The mixture of perfume and food is a sensual banquet enough, and if I were a rich man I'd adopt the idea as my own. Never mind Fine Wines; never mind megalomaniacal sweatbucket chefs; what we'd have is the Banquet of Heliogabalus without the suffocation scene at the end. To start with, a simple soupe de poisson, heavy with saffron, accompanied by rose absolue, with just a touch of bergamot to elevate the olfactory palette. Then a refreshing lavender sorbet, with an astringent offering of petitgrain, cedar and myrrh. Those choosing the meat dish - venison, I'd suggest, with caramelised shallots and a flambe reduction with Calvados - would be further seduced by (what else?) the animal sensuality of Shalimar; those preferring the alternative (alligator allumettes stir-fried with pear nectar and lemon balm and served on warm baby spinach leaves) would be further aroused by a special accord of lime, grapefruit, white lilac and a touch of vetiver. A dark, bittersweet pot au chocolat with coumarin and ambergris; a perfect Brie with civet and absolute of Grasse jasmin; then, finally, monsoon Malabar coffee to alert the senses, and grains of purest musk to turn them in the direction of venery.

This is clearly the way forward. Sensual indulgence on such a scale would immediately render unthinkable any mercenary couplings with import/export men and other people's wives. The passions would be aroused, but pure and affectionate, and if an explosion of orgiastic indulgence were to follow, it would follow at home, in the legitimate profundity of the uxorious bed. Marriages would be saved, love rekindled, the arms dealers and dogshit corporateers sent empty away, and, best of all, there would be no place for vulgar, shouty, self-obsessed cooks of an irredeemably below-stairs cast of mind.

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