Rahner Q&A | Sarah Katherine Lewis, "Sex & Bacon"
As soon as I'm rich, I intend to hire a bacon steward whose sole job is to follow me around with a fresh plate of the stuff at all times...
Seattle Times staff reporter
It's something Elvis would do.
"Sex & Bacon" (Seal Press, $14.95 sexandbacon.com), by Seattle author Sarah Katherine Lewis, turned out to be an eye-magnet for everyone who saw me reading it, since it combines two of the best things money can buy. A former sex worker, Lewis, 36, subtitled her raunchy call to hedonism, "Why I Love Things That Are Very, Very Bad for Me." To find out more, I went to her lower Queen Anne apartment and had hot, steamy ... homemade pumpkin muffins with her.
Q: Is your ambition to become the Martha Stewart of former sex workers? Hang on, she was never a sex worker — do we know that?
A: I don't know if we know that. I think she'd make a great dominatrix, though. That lady is tough.
Q: Would it be appropriate for me to refer to you as a "baconatrix"? Sorry, "Mistress Baconatrix."
A: Sure. You know what? If you like.
Q: What ties sex and bacon together, and have you had both at once?
A: You know, I honestly do not like blending food with sex. And it's funny, because people always ask about that, but that "9 ½ Weeks" thing is just really not my scene. The one time I ever had someone drizzle honey on me it got really sticky and really unpleasant, and then we both kind of just got up and cleaned up. It was really completely unerotic and very anticlimactic.
Q: I need to focus on one or the other, or else the eggs become problematic. What do you want readers to get from the book — apart from hunger from the recipes and possibly some mild arousal?
A: I want people to really celebrate their own appetites for whatever it is that they really want, whatever it is that's really savory to them or really sexy to them. And I want them to sort of feel a sense of permission, or at least a sense of kinship in the pursuit of satisfaction and appetite. A lot of times people will read my stuff and they'll be like, "Dude I'm totally not into that," or "That recipe sounds gross," or "Oh, I can't believe you did that in bed," or whatever. And it's kind of like, well, if you don't want to do that, that's fine, and if you don't want to eat that, that's fine. But think about what you do want to eat and how you do want to [expletive], and gosh darn it, go out and do it.
Q: You should know that my preferred term is "the act of sexual congress."
A: The act of sexual congress? OK. I'm going to try to work that in.
Q: Explain being against low-fat and light and diet foods, and how eating fat made you thinner.
A: You know, fake foods are really like fake orgasms. They don't do anyone any good at any time. Eating fake food is basically a self-loathing and pointless activity that results in constant hunger. The thing is, is when your body gets a bunch of fake food, your poor body is trying to process it as if it's real food, right? But maybe you ate one of those cookies that are fat-free and sugar-free or whatever, so you ate this thing that kind of tastes sweet, but you don't feel satisfied. You don't feel like Wow, I had a cookie and it was good. You kind of feel like Wow, I had a thing with a lot of fiber with it, or Wow, I had this kind of air-puffed thing, right? And so then your sense of desire for the cookie has not been sated. And so what do you do but you eat another one of those bad, fat-free, sugar-free cookies. Because you're like, Maybe one wasn't enough, maybe I need another. Back when I used to eat fake food when I was really fat, I'd sit down and I'd eat a whole box of Snackwell cookies. I mean I'd just eat 'em, and then I'd be like God, I still want a cookie. Because I hadn't had an experience of being sated, of being like, Yeah, man that cookie was good.
So I made the decision to stop eating fake food, and I started eating just real food, and I started eating a lot of real food, and what happened is my body was finally being able to set its own point of satiety. And you know, your body has its own wisdom, which sounds really new age and bull[expletive] and woo-woo. But if you kind of just let your body figure out what it needs and what it wants, it's not stupid and it won't do wrong by you.
Q: You talk at some length about how women's body images suffer because of how they're portrayed in the media. But what are you adding that's new to that old argument?
A: Well, I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm not real skinny, myself. I'm a size 12, which to the fashion industry is morbidly obese, and I could drop dead at any moment. I think that it is absolutely revolutionary to be someone who is not real skinny but to insist upon staking out territory in the idea of sexy. I think I'm totally sexy. I'd totally do me, you know?
Q: And it sounds as if you have been.
A: [Laughs.] It's one of those things where women don't get to see a lot of other women being curvy and happy with their bodies. They get to see a lot of women who are curvy and hate themselves, or who are very, very slender and still hate themselves. I think it's pretty new to go out and say, "I'm a size 12, I have no intention of being any thinner than that — and I think I"m pretty hot."
Q: So, bearing that in mind, my question is: What dress size would I be?
A: Mmm. Golly. I used to actually have a lot of clients who were cross-dressers. If you were going to wear a dress, I would probably put you in a 16-18.
Q: Tell me about your experiment to see how much bacon was enough.
A: That was the Bacon Quotient. I was sitting around thinking about bacon — you know, as people are wont to do, you know, just brooding, kind of. I started thinking about the goodness of bacon, because pretty much everyone agrees that bacon is really, really good. And I started thinking that part of the goodness was linked to the scarcity of bacon, because when you go to a restaurant and you order a side of bacon you get like maybe three or four strips, so there's this kind built-in scarcity economy that makes it even more desirable, right?
Q: It's as if the Saudis were responsible for bacon.
A: Yeah, no doubt. So I started thinking about, what if we separated the sense of scarcity from the bacon. Would it still be as good? And I got to the thought of, the idea of having this bounty of bacon. Like what if instead of being scarce, what if bacon was plentiful?
And then I started thinking about how much bacon I personally had in my refrigerator that day, and I had a lot. So, I also had a day off. I thought that I would just eat bacon until I was done eating bacon, and I would see where that point was. Would I reach it after like eight strips? Would I reach it after 10 strips? I have certainly been in restaurants and ordered two side orders of bacon, and that has not been enough, so I was pretty sure it would be more than about eight strips.
So I just started frying bacon and I started eating it, and I fried more and I ate more. After about three pounds — I would say the last pound was somewhat laborious, but I wanted to make absolutely sure I was done, because I didn't want like an hour to pass by and for me to go "You know what? I could totally eat more bacon right now."
Q: No, a scientist has to be thorough.
A: Exactly. Exactly. So it turns out my personal B.Q. is four pounds. Yours might be more or less. I encourage you to duplicate my experiment at home.
Q: Something I've never seen [celebrity chef] Nigella Lawson do: offer variations on recipes for cooking people into bed. Example?
A: If I were going to try and cook somebody into bed, I think I'd sneakily ask him or her what recipes he or she remembers from their childhood, and if at all possible I would try and duplicate a childhood recipe that is remembered and much loved. Because there's something about feeling known in that way and feeling that sense of home and that sense of comfort and that sense of sort of being taken care of by someone who loves you.
Q: But it's probably easier to cook a guy into bed than anything else in the animal kingdom.
A: I don't know. Maybe you're a much more popular guy than me, but I do have to work at it.
Q: All I can say is, I remember enjoying sex. What makes for a good comfort food after a vicious breakup?
A: A fifth of whiskey.
Q: Lightning round: Eliot Spitzer.
A: The thing that really intrigues me about that is how much money he paid, because I can't think of any act that would command that much money. It's completely really on the far side of the bell curve for normal rates for normal activities.
Q: Jasmine and Destiny: names that ensure a girl will grow up a stripper?
A: I think it depends on how you spell it. If you spell Jasmine with a "z" or Destiny with a double-"e," I think you pretty much should just buy your daughter a pole right away.
Q: Strips or ends and pieces?
A: [Thoughtfully.] Ends and pieces.
Q: That sounds so filthy now.
A: Yeah, I know. I kind of feel like I've boxed myself into something.
Q: In closing, I want you to know that I'm a person with feelings, and I'm not just a piece of meat.
A: [Laughs.] I think that you're fork-tender.
Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259
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