There’s vulnerability in giving pleasure. Get your mind out of the gutter. Or, keep it there, but cover yourself up and consider the anxiety, shame, fear, shyness, insecurity and uncertainty that compete with desire when trying to pleasure someone in the, ahem, Biblical sense. Drunken people, Quagmire (giggity), narcissists and (some) lovers under the age of 22 are excused.
On the B-side, we all know taking pleasure is easy. From a spitting Nick Cave barking ‘Pleasure is the Boss’, to a perfectly measured Sixpenny degustation, or the collected works of David Sedaris; whatever floats your boat often requires little effort on your behalf to get the boat buoyant.
Unless, like Cave, or the chef, or the cleverest wordsmith, you derive your own pleasure from that which brings pleasure to others, measuring your worth by the satisfaction of your audience. Then you’re basically naked, with all the world your expectant lover.
In her 2010 TED talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability’, Brené Brown affirms the work of the sweating chefs/writers/musicians, the generous pleasure-ers among us, when she reveals, ‘[vulnerability] is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, of love…’
Google tells me that Voltaire said, ‘nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.’ Thanks Google. And well said Voltaire, well played God and shit, no pressure, every living chef. New York City is a metropolis stuffed with vulnerable chefs, in the service of more than eight million people who’ve all gotta eat and all expect it to feel good – every time. I join the hungry pleasure-seekers on a baking summer morning, heading toward the East Village outlet of Momofuku Milk Bar. The sweet younger sister of David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant cartel, and from the candy-buzzed mind of Christina Tosi, the Wonka-weird menu brags Crack Pie, Pretzel Milk, Candy Bar Pie, Compost Cookies and Cereal Milk Softserve. It’s the best kind of kid genius – like speedily chomping through a bowl of Fruit Loops in front of The Smurfs before lifting the bowl to suck down the sweet milk – in dessert form. For $10 I buy six cookies, some combination of the Compost, Corn, Chocolate-Chocolate and Cornflake Marshmallow varieties. They are everything you’d expect: surprising, flavourful, teeth aching, a little bit salty, gooey, chewy, sometimes crunchy, but most of all, deeply pleasurable.
Ages before I figured that giving pleasure leaves you vulnerable, or Brown deduced that vulnerability creates love, Euripides said, ‘the greatest pleasure of life is love.’ I reckon after a spot of lunch he probably added, ‘and food as well.’ All I know for sure is that I’ll greedily scoff a lovingly baked Momofuku Milk Bar treat, any old place, any old time, but I’d much rather go bite-for-bite with the one I love.