Monday, April 16, 2012

Orange, Rosewater & Mint Tisane in Le Divorce: Erotic Recipe for Women

James Ivory has long been considered the most "British" of American directors, at least going by his Ismail Merchant collaboration (usually with Ruth Prawer Jhabvala in screenwriting/adaptation), which has produced such delicate cinematic gems as Room with a View, The Remains of the Day and Howard's End. In 2003's Le Divorce, however, he tries his hand on the old cultural war between Les Americains et les Français, instead, based on a novel by Diane Johnson. A weak link in Ivory's formidable record, mainly due to an indecision as to what his main focus will be, the film nevertheless produces interesting and subtle little snippets of the cultural and ideological chasm between the two nations in high style and an all-star cast.

Kate Hudson as Isabel Walker is an American film school dropout who jets off to Paris when her pregnant step-sister Roxy (played by Naomi Watts) is abandoned by her French husband. Soon, Isabel has a scandal of her own when she falls for an older French man, Edgar Cosset, who's related to Roxy's cheating husband and is a far-right politician. Totally out of her waters, the nubile, originally hippyish Isabel lets herself be metamorphosized into a chic butterfly, through the sophistication-adding tricks of a bob cut, soigné makeup, co-ordinated wardrobe, an Hermès red Kelly 28 bag given to her as a gift (really, a stand-alone character in the film, a status symbol prop made into powerful allusion), intimate trysts following elaborate four-course meals, and racy lingerie brought for the sheer pleasure of getting out of it.

There all sorts of clichés too, accounting to French character assasination, mainly involving cheating Frenchmen, conservative French women, manners & propriety above essence and a contrasting augmented sense of sincerity on the part of Americans as opposed to the Europeans, which involve a pleiad of secondary characters (but true stars, such as Glen Close, Stockard Channing, French legend Leslie Caron, Jean Marc Barr, Matthew Modine etc). If you have been to Paris, it's also a trip down memory lane, as besides the Louvre and the final, downspiral kerfuffle at the Eiffel Tower, you will recognize beautiful Parisian locales such as Cafe de Flore and Le Georges.

But the most characteristic scene in Le Divorce~well, for us fumenerds noticing such details anyway~ takes place when Isabel's older French lover hands her down a secret erotic recipe in bed, telling her to drink it before lovemaking to make the love juices smell fragrant: "That's something you would never have found out in Santa Barbara!" he tells her naughtily (You just want to bitch slap him, that's how smugly he delivers the line!).
A stereotype though it might sound, as liberated and sexually free the American woman is, catering for her lover's pleasure in such a subtle way is not considered the norm. This special tisane symbolizes a favour to the male, a preparation in anticipation of erotic ecstacy, a foregone conclusion, a subjugation of the feminist to the concubine, recalling how Chinese concubines were fed  deer musk so as to make their bodies exude fragrant fumes from every pore when stroked by their lovers...

Of course there are hundreds of erotic recipes for potions, ointments, unguents and powders to enhance the sexual act. The recipe in Le Divorce involves a special tisane, brewed of mint leaves in orange and rosewater, sipped before the sexual act. The herbs and essences chosen are not random: Apart from their health benefits and aromatic properties, imparting a delicious fragrant steam when sipping, they balance the hormones and open the mind for the pleasure of the senses. Mint is easy on the stomach and excellent for steadying the nerves and for nausea. Rose hips are the seed pods left behind when the rose blossoms fade in autumn. Their sweet and sour tonality is very enjoyable in tisanes, giving a refined, feminine taste. Coupled with orange, coming from the peeled rind of the orange fruit itself, the taste is sweet and bracing, balancing the other ingredients and providing a sensual rounding.
This is an easy recipe to make by yourself, adjusting the ratio of plants to suit your own taste. Just peel a ripe orange, boil the rind with some mint leaves (or a mint teabag) and a rosehips tea bag and you're good to go! After all, in the movie the exact measurements are pointedly never given and there is a sense of received irony when Isabel asks for exact directions as to when to drink and how much. Like French seduction, spontaneity goes further than a pre-planned go-by-the-book approach...

pics via and


  1. Funny! You see it's French because the recipe includes no cranberry, which, after considerable advertising, would be a must this side of the ocean.


  2. LOL! "You just want to bitch slap him, that's how smugly he delivers the line."

    I remember seeing this film when it first came out and finding it a bit disappointing ... you're quite right, Helg, it just seemed to lack focus. But it did provide nice eye candy in every regard.

  3. Anonymous03:21

    i enjoyed this movie - maybe because it was in paris, my favorite city in the world. but also because the divorcee comes into her own, and the sister finally figures things, out, too.

    great recipe! thanks!


  4. M,

    good observation! Yeah, it's supposed to be "an old French recipe", apparently. That's what he says at least ;-)

  5. Suzanne,

    hey there, thanks for stopping by, how are you?

    Eye candy is a good description. I thought it was supremely watchable in a voyeristic way.

  6. J,

    you're welcome.
    Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it too! Otherwise I wouldn't remember all those details :-D
    It just seems to be a bit mixing the plot with the relationship focus (which should be the main focus) and the end spiral tends to become rather unbelieavable (the killing part is somewhat unrelated, the painting a bit thin in development). It's definitely a nice Paris-themed journey though and I'm not surprised you liked that. It's great eye candy, as Suzanne says!

  7. Anonymous10:18

    That recipe is not that bad but the recipe to " perfume the juices" Is quite simple:

    2 tea bags of mint (herbal)
    1 tea bag of jasmine (herbal)
    1 tea bag of orange and lemon peel ( herbal)
    3 thin slices of cucumber
    1 bag of rose tea (herbal)

    Seep in a half full tea pot, let it cool then drink

    If you drink this for a week you will exude a wonderful sent... Stay away from garlic, onions, asparagus and spicy foods for the week...

    You will thank me;-)

    1. Cheri LaRoche21:03

      If I will thank you, why are you anonymous? If I shared something like like this, I'd use my name. I mean you want to help right? Why hide who you are?

    2. Anonymous21:05

      I would like to thank the real person.

    3. I'll try this one.


  8. sounds great and doable!

  9. Ariadne23:07

    I detested this film and considered it regrettable on all fronts. Doesn't he also insist she eat those little violet candies too? I would have loved to see Ms. Channing throw him off the Eiffel instead of the purse. Really bad wig on the precious Ms. Hudson too...throw that off too.

  10. Ariadne,

    it's certainly full of cliches, I give you that! Which is why it's not a great film by any stretch of the imagination.
    Then again, it's the French seen through the eyes of an American (and in the plot, of two American women), so I suppose it's meant as a tongue in cheek point of view, sorta...I hope.
    The character of the older politician is certainly not meant to be agreeable: he's too smug, too manipulative, too Pygmalion-like for him to be truly sympathetic to women watching, but then again that's the whole point! French men are more chauvinistic than their American counterparts, on the whole. That much is true.

    Funny on the wig, it did seem too restrained for Hudson! There was a lovely quote by her French boyfriend in the film ("you look like a reader of Marie-Claire") hinting at the totally bourgeois sensibility of it. But then again, it was the bourgeois thing that ticked the politician, style-wise! (and the French are a very bourgeois nation, if there ever was one) Tiny "brushstrokes" like that were the most enjoyable part, for me. The rest was fluff and eye candy. :-)

  11. I actually quite liked this move and I recall a protracted google search for tisane/ptisane afterward because that scene did stand out.

    The age/power differential between that couple would be an irritating factor if I allowed myself to dwell on it, but reality would ruin so many films, don't you think?

  12. Phlegmfatale,

    wow, that really stuck didn't it! (I know it did for me)
    Worth mentioning then and glad you enjoyed.

    As to May-December couplings, we've seen enough on the screen, it's indeed the truth. I guess because it's rather common in life (especially in those employing a young woman and an older man rather than the reverse -which I find much more interesting) film makers assume it strikes a chord with audiences regardless of its ubiquity.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  13. I stumbled onto your blog this morning because I had concocted what I thought was an 'original' nonalcoholic drink for the 4th of July. so I figured I'd google to make sure that is the case. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I've just "invented" an Aphrodesiac according to this article hahaha. I don't even have a I dare drink this now? or stick to ice water and cold showers hahaha? Great blog btw. I'll be exploring more of it in the coming days. I love perfumes :)

  14. Sabrina,

    thanks for stumbling onto the Shrine and hope it was worth the giggle of finding this post.
    I should think that downing a tisane or two of this is pretty safe; it's more of a "decorative" process than a wild prompt into the naughty. But who knows, maybe the boyfriend will follow or maybe he isn't even necessary!

    Hope you find things to explore and enjoy around here and feel free to comment any time; there's a bit of style, beauty, music, film tied into scent and a bit of history & science to it too; a rich world and I can only hope to skim the surface of it. :-)

  15. Anonymous05:10

    I wanted to tell him to shower, scrub well AND drink 2L of pineapple juice.

  16. Anon,

    haha! Yup.
    Though come to think of it, he did come showered and (I deduce) scrubbed. The inside system, I'm not sure of. But oh well, pineapple juice can't hurt anyway, can it? :-D
    Thanks for commenting!

  17. Anonymous20:36

    When I heard of his ordered tisane,I assumed he meant the French-Indian orange flower water( used ubiquitously for flavoring everything over there),and bottled roseflower water,as well. I can't imagine he meant "orange rinds and rosehips",although that would certainly be more healthsome.Just a thought.what a creep.But if one wants to try this,as I think he meant it,buy orange flower water,and roseflower water.II'd be up all night at the restroom for Femmes,myself! I could be wrong,for sure,just made more sense to me...

    1. We use the orange flower water too (for sprinkling cookies and baklava squares) and I use the rosewater as a gentle face toner (I use the food grade one, gentle and cheap).
      It does sound a quite nice idea, come to think of it, Anon, it would be worth a try!! (Ι bet though one wouldn't consume other potent smelly stuff such as garlic, curry etc.) LOL on the restroom!

    2. I agree with Anon, I always thought he was speaking of mint leaves steeped in orange blossom water and rose water! I love the scent of both, and being Lebanese, keep both in my kitchen cabinet. It's neat to hear you use the rose water for a toner - I spritz a home made concoction of rose water (and sometimes up to 1/2 orange blossom water if I'm low on rose water) with a very small amount of food grade glycerin on my face and neck every day. Very refreshing!

    3. I've made something with mint tea, fresh orange blossom water, fresh rosewater... A big pot of that quickly consumed while warm, an hour before hand you're peeing it out and then smelling divine.
      Just make the mint tea, add rosewater and Orange Blossom water after the tea has brewed. I even have found a pharmacist who makes the waters fresh, knowing I'm using them for consumption. Rosewater is also good for the skin. After cleansing, before moisturizing.

  18. Thank you for the recipe. This is simply comforting and demure compared to another "erotic recipe" involving worn panties and the preparation of coffee to be surreptiously served to a choice--I assume sexy--third party. Kind of indecent and kinky. I really wonder if it really works as an aphrodisiac?


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