Aphrodite is not only a Goddess of Love; She is also a Goddess of Pleasure.
Pleasure comes in many forms, but one everyday experience of pleasure is consuming food. Like many of our most intense pleasures, food is very primal. We need it to survive, but we are also capable of drawing immense enjoyment from it. Finding joy in cooking a meal, savoring it, and sharing it with others is one of the ways I connect with Aphrodite.
When I was growing up, my family didn’t cook. Especially after I became a vegetarian, my parents didn’t know what to do. I ate a lot of freezer pizza and frozen veggie lasagna. I didn’t really have a good reference for home-cooked food until I started dating my high school sweetheart.
His mom cooked dinner almost every night! When I would come over for dinner on the weekend, she would make these elaborate (to me) dishes that were delicious. She also treated my vegetarianism with respect and like a fun challenge to invent new veggie meals (which is more than I could say for my parents at the time). My high school sweetheart’s parents also had a fair amount of money, and we went out to eat at some very nice places.
In high school, I figured out that I liked good food, but I didn’t really fall in love with food until I studied in Italy in undergrad. The whole culture around food is so different there than it is here in the US, and it is impossible to go to one of the greatest food capitals of the world without developing a love affair with Italian cuisine. During my first few weeks in Italy, we went to an agritourism place outside of Bologna, where the local chef taught us how to make pasta by hand, using nothing but a giant pasta board and a rolling pin about two feet long. The rest, as they say, was history.
Living in Italy was the first time I really had a kitchen of my own (which I shared with my Italian roommates, of course). My few attempts at cooking at home in high school had been disastrous, and cooking in a college dorm was inconvenient and usually disgusting. In Italy, I couldn’t afford to go out to a restaurant every night (take-out isn’t really a thing there), so I had to learn to cook.
It was so much fun! In Italy, you can get high quality ingredients for super cheap, so I had a whole array of options to experiment and play with. There was even a small shop near my apartment that sold nothing but Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. That was it. Only one kind of cheese – but it was delicious!
There I discovered that cooking was an art. I learned that you should NEVER do your homework at the table (believe me, I got a whole lecture from my Italian roommates about it). Food is more than just sustenance. It is an experience – an experience made more joyous by sharing it with others. The Slow Food movement was born in Italy. The whole Italian culture is to savor the delicious things in life, be it food, art, nature, or love.
It became a part of my identity. I was now officially a “foodie.” When my boyfriend came to visit me, food was one of the big things we planned our day around. In Italy and Greece, we ate so much wonderful food together, and we took that back with us as a couple. However, it took a while for it to become part of my spiritual practice.
When my OCD was really bad in grad school, I didn’t cook much at all. It required cleaning SO MANY THINGS and most days I didn’t have the energy for it. My boyfriend did almost all of the cooking because I simply couldn’t handle it. I had lost the joy of cooking. Once my OCD started to get better, and I began cooking for myself again, I fell back in love.
One of my favorite things to do is to cook for other people. It is one of the ways I express love. It makes me so happy to see others enjoy something that I have made, and that’s how I began to use it to connect with Aphrodite. I experience Divine love while sharing food with others.
I also experience Divine pleasure when enjoying food myself. The smell of food that makes you ravenous. The moment of that first bite – experiencing all the different tastes of the dish hitting your tongue at slightly different times. Focusing on that pleasure connects me with Aphrodite.
People describe food as an orgasmic experience – and, in a way, they are right. Not in the “chocolate is better than sex” way (seriously, if you think chocolate is better than sex, you’ve been having terrible sex), but in a transcendent way. When we orgasm during sex (solo or partnered), we are connected with something greater than ourselves. When we eat good food, we are connected to the person that cooked it, to the atmosphere it was prepared and served in, to the ingredients themselves, and to the land the ingredients came from. If you stop to think about how much energy goes into your typical dinner, it is staggering. The land that grew the crops and spices, the hands that harvested them, the cows that gave the milk to make the cheese, the people that transported the food to you, the chef that cooked the food, and, now, you. To me, that’s pretty amazing.
In the mundane world, if I have friends over, I will light a candle at the table and dedicate it to Aphrodite. I very rarely actually pray before meals – it’s a bit of resentment towards Christianity I haven’t quite gotten over yet – but I love blessing cakes and ale in circle. I am very conscious about the food that I put into my body, including what it is and where it came from. I eat very cleanly, try to keep out any artificial anything, and make sure my food is enjoyable. To me, this act of choosing how and what to eat is a way to honor the Earth and myself.
The process of cooking is a joy to me, and as I mentioned before, my favorite part of the Charge of the Goddess is “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.” I feel like this is particularly true for Aphrodite. The moment of that first bite is when I feel Her the strongest during conscious eating. Enjoying the reward of the effort of cooking, celebrating all the ingredients and their energies, using all of my senses to fully embrace the moment – it’s magickal.