LUTZ, Fla. McMullen, who has been cooking naked for more than two decades, it shows how misunderstood nudism is. Many people think only about the pitfalls — spattering fat, minor burns — and not the benefits.
She lives here with her husband, Jayson McMullen. The McMullens are two of more than 10 million Americans who identify as nudists, or naturists, according to a study, the latest available, by the marketing services company Ypartnership and the Harrison Group. Some historians say the modern naturist movement in the West emerged in Europe in the 18th century as a means of promoting health, exposing the body to fresh air and sunlight; others trace its origins to Germany in the 19th century, as an effort to resist industrialization by living simpler and closer to nature.
No-clothes resorts, groups and beaches sprang up, and when Germans immigrated to the United States in the 20th century, some brought along the naturist ethos. Now nudists live all over America — though understandably, many are concentrated in warm-weather locales. Erich Schuttauf, the executive director of the American Association for Nude Recreation , said they tend to skew older, more educated and wealthier. In , the group estimated that nude tourism in Florida, which then had 34 nudist resorts, brought 2.
But many nudists balk at any suggestion that cooking — or vacationing, or living in general — is more fraught for them than for the clothed. They feel less inhibited, more creative. The nudist movement has historically been connected to food: When it emerged in Europe, it was as much about diet as about clothing.
Some nudists avoided meat-heavy dishes, and embraced vegetarianism and healthy eating. Today, food is still integral to the experience at Lake Como. The oldest continuously operating nudist resort in Florida, it feels like something between a summer camp and a retirement home. Some nudist clubs and resorts offer either a restaurant or lodgings with kitchens. Lake Como has both, ensuring that guests never have to don clothes to dine.
Its full-service restaurant, the Bare Buns Cafe, serves flank steak and shrimp scampi, while a bar called the Butt Hutt, decorated with license plates and string lights, offers naked karaoke and open-mic nights. There are no dress or undress requirements at the restaurant or bar, beyond the rule that each naked guest must bring a towel to sit on, for hygienic reasons. On a Saturday morning in January, a man stared at his phone as he devoured a plate of fried eggs, while another rode by in a golf cart, munching on a powdered doughnut.
Others gardened, played volleyball, walked dogs, read books. They just happened to be unclothed. Residents and guests said most of the people at the resort are white. Nationally, there are organizations like the Black Naturists Association seeking to build community among nonwhite nudists.
Some at Lake Como said being naked had helped them cultivate a more positive relationship with food. McMullen, 60, a flight attendant, grew up in Massapequa Park, N. A friend recommended that she visit a nude beach in New Jersey. No one was judging. I knew right then that this was for me.
McMullen has since lost pounds, but considers that less important. All it took to feel good about her appearance, she said, was taking her clothes off. She spoke about being naked and being a cook as if they were one and the same, as she made carnitas in her electric pressure cooker. Her husband, Mr. McMullen, 63, who is retired from the plumbing business, strummed his guitar. McMullen said. You take what you want and leave the rest. The McMullens live here but travel often, staying at nude resorts when they can.
Their walls are hung with group photos from nude cruises. McMullen has two adult sons who visit from time to time, and go naked. For occasions that require them, like grocery shopping, the couple maintain a stash of clothes in a room where they keep cleaning supplies.
On the other side of the resort, another couple, Mr. Clark, The second I was nude, that disappeared in two seconds. My whole life changed. Four years ago, Ms. Rettig, 62, was treated for lymph node cancer, which limited the mobility of her right arm. That arm swelled frequently, so she had to wear loosefitting clothes. One day, she accompanied relatives to a nude beach.
As soon as she was naked, none of that mattered. She felt comfortable. The two split their time between Orlando and their house in Lake Como. During the week, Mr. Clark works as an optometrist, and Ms. Rettig runs a nonprofit group called Tampa Bay Free Beaches , which lobbies for opening up more areas of Florida to nude recreation. Clark, standing over his stove, tossing clams into garlic broth and boiling angel-hair pasta.
He deftly maneuvered around the kitchen, nearly grazing his belly with a pot of hot water while draining the pasta, wearing only oven mitts. Around 5 p. They ate at a table on the deck, paper napkins slung over their thighs, slurping strands of pasta as the sun slid from the sky and Jimmy Buffett crooned from a speaker.
McMullen, who was in attendance. Now I get to be myself. That ease, they say, extends to eating out. At the Bare Buns Cafe, government health rules require that the staff be clothed, but most customers dine in the nude. Tara Pickett, a cook at Lake Como and some other nudist resorts in the area, agreed. Pickett, They make you feel welcome. Where the restaurant does struggle, she added, is in hiring help. Dee Lyman, 52, a bartender at the Butt Hutt, said she missed mixing drinks without a top on — legal in a bar setting, but Mr.
Krienes requires uniforms. For the uninitiated, residents are quick to explain their ways and distinct parlance. Being a nudist invites questions: Is it the same as swinging? Is it exhibitionist? No, no and no. For all their enthusiasm about eating, cooking can pose some challenges. McMullen has learned to take a big step back when taking food out of the oven, to avoid being clipped by a hot rack. Her husband mostly refrains from frying, and wears an apron when he does. When grilling, he keeps a good distance from the flame.
Nancy Rehling, 70, a retired restaurant owner who lives at Lake Como, said she wears a T-shirt when she cooks, to combat splatter. But several cooks pointed out that safety and hygiene concerns are inevitable in any cooking. Table manners are no different whether someone is clothed or not. And a nudist is equally capable of preparing bacon, or any other food, as a cook in a full-length outfit. Get regular updates from NYT Cooking, with recipe suggestions, cooking tips and shopping advice.
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