It is an unfortunate quirk that when I try to think of food scenes in literature, one of the first that comes to mind is from the opening pages of a 1928 classic of transgressive pornography, The Story of the Eye, by the French philosopher Georges Bataille (1897–1962). In the scene in question, Simone, the female protagonist, lifts up her skirt and dips an exposed body part into the kitty cat’s saucer of milk while the sixteen-year-old male narrator looks on. Simone is wearing “a black pinafore with a starched white collar.” She says, “Milk is for the pussy, isn’t it? … Do you dare me to sit in the saucer?” “I dare you,” the narrator answers—“almost breathless.” The scene is sexy and also a perfect riff, with the cat, the body part, the milk, and the potential lapping up.
Strangely, when I have this thought, a dish springs to mind as well—a terror of haute French cuisine called floating islands, or iles flottante, in which meringue towers drift lazily in a pool of crème anglaise. The meringues can be baked or poached and, in a recipe I found from The Cordon Bleu Cookbook, are served dusted with crushed pink Jordan almonds. The dish’s relevance to The Story of the Eye is that it’s made mostly from milk (starring in the passage above) and eggs, which participate in one of the text’s main metaphor chains, linked to eyes and testicles. Eggs, for the narrator, are “extraordinarily meaningful” and are used for bizarre and grotesque purposes. He explains, “Another game was to crack a fresh egg on the edge of the bidet and empty it under her: sometimes she would piss on it, sometimes she made me strip naked and swallow the raw egg from the bottom of the bidet.” Milk in the book participates in a second metaphor chain, this one of fluids, primarily semen and urine. (Coincidentally, the meringue of my iles flottante floats in a pool of creamy yellow liquid. Mmm … ) Read More