If Aphrodisiacs Be the Food of Love, Give Me Excess of It
January 19, 2007
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but why the discrimination? It’s almost certainly a direct path to a woman’s. After all, a dinner date is usually orchestrated by the man; and sharing a meal – with all its textures, courses and tastes – is, on a sensual scale, merely one notch below well, you know. An age-old seduction strategy? Definitely. But if you really want to up the ante, get in the kitchen. Preferably together.
On your menu: aphrodisiacs. Named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, these are foods thought to arouse sexual desire or heighten performance. Some, like oysters and asparagus, have a curious resemblance to certain body parts. Others, like ginger and chillies, are hot and spicy, which can only mean one thing. And then there are the obvious mood-altering beverages like wine and coffee.
Keep dishes simple so there’s more time to play. Dispense with cutlery if possible and let your fingers do the feeding. Tease the tongue by mixing hot and cold, crunchy and smooth. Get creative with the serving. Spread, dip, pour, drizzle. At the Kensington Italian Locanda Ottoemezzo, risotto is brought to the table nestled within a rind of Parmesan, then scooped out so slowly, you’re begging for it by the time the last creamy spoonful surrenders onto your plate.
Foreplay is of utmost importance. Go for foods you can prep in advance and finish off at the table. Jennifer Klinec, of the creative cooking school Eat Drink Talk, includes porcini mushroom fondue in her Valentine’s Day class. “Everyone loves fondue, plus the little candlelight from the burners underneath the fondue sets bathes everything in a lovely and very flattering light.” Also at the top of her list of amorous recipes is a venison chili con carne that can be made a day ahead. “It tastes even better the next day, which leaves more time for other things…”
Throw in some music, candlelight and the right clothing (or lack of), and you’re in there. Of course everything depends on that mischievously elusive little devil called chemistry. No amount of phallic produce or chocolate sauce is going to start a fire where there’s no spark.
You won’t find scientific evidence to back aphrodisiacs; they’re simply believed to fuel passion because of how they look, taste or smell. In short: follow the rules of attraction. Any food can be sexy. As usual, it’s not what you’ve got but how you use it.
Heady vanilla is nearly synonymous with lust, while the earthy truffle smells like a male wild boar during heat.
Ginger tickles the tongue and stimulates the circulatory system, as does garlic. Nutmeg can produce hallucinations if taken in very-high doses. Don’t.
The capsaicin in chili peppers induces a pleasure-pain response, and just think what onions do to your eyes.
Asparagus do well dipped in rich hollandaise or melted butter, bananas are born to strip, and cucumbers measure up.
The Aztecs said avocados grew on “testicle trees” because the creamy fruit hangs in pairs, while ripe, open figs resemble a rush of blood not to the head. Berries travel well from hand to mouth.
It’s not called a honeymoon for nothing. The sweetener is a natural in the romance department. Same goes for desserts – the gooeyer, the better.
The phenylethylamine in chocolate is a natural pick-me-up, but its sensuous mouth feel is equally to blame, while provocative oysters are best swallowed in one go. Alcohol goes down equally well for the libido, but in small amounts.