Aphroditic Food
Text by Margit Bisztray| Photo Andrew Bruce - Fotolia

Although the idea of sexually stimulating foods my be a hard notion to swallow for some, don’t be surprised if the ingredients we’ve found make you dash to the bedroom before you’ve had time to lick the plate.

You’ve joked about it as you sucked down raw oysters.

You’ve heard talk of bizarre Chinese ton- ics and pow- ders contain- ing strange animal ingredi- ents, like rhinoc- eros horn. And very likely, you’ve eaten something, somewhere, that made you wonder: “Is there such a thing asaphroditic food?”

The answer depends on whom you ask.

An aphroditic is a substance that stirs amorous de- sires when consumed. The word comes from Aph- rodite, the Greek goddess of love who bloomed out of an oyster shell. Her romantic food of choice was, unfortunately, sparrows. Cleopatra preferred honey and almonds (an improvement) and Montezuma, another famous lover, drank some 50 cups a day of hot chocolate. Yes, it was nasty and bitter chocolate, but it was chocolate nonetheless.

Foods that are believed to contain aphroditic powers have traits in common. Some (call them the no-brain- ers) look like the parts of the body associated with sex including oysters, bananas, asparagus, raspberries and peaches. Aphroditic foods tend to be sensual and beautiful, appealing to all the senses, not only to the taste buds. They are the foods painters have lovingly rendered in rich and shiny oils: figs, artichokes, apricots, eggs, grapes and avocados.

Others are rare or hard to procure, therefore expensive. Let’s face it, if a lover shows up with champagne and caviar, or gourmet chocolate or black truffles, the lover looks much more attractive and sexier than when carrying a pizza.

Lastly, aphroditic foods tend to be concentrated forms of high nutrition. What? Listen, in ancient times you had to farm, forage and hunt. For months, you were starving in your hut, and the libido tended to go down to the point where it af- fected fertility. As a way to give that a boost, people went to great lengths for nuts, spices, olives, figs and (once again) oysters. In some southern European countries, harvests were marked by orgies. Food at last! To this day, Italian and Medi- terranean are still considered among the world’s sexiest foods and cuisines. In some villages, guests toss figs at newlyweds instead of rice.

Saffron is the dried stamen of a crocus, costly and tedious to harvest. Vanilla is the bean of an orchid that blooms only rarely and has to be hand-pollinated. Ginseng grows underground and is the most expensive spice per pound in the world. Pomegranates are pregnant with shimmering red seeds. Chili peppers raise the temperature, increase the heart rate and cause a flush of heat — very much like passion itself. Chocolate? It’s dark, silky, sweet, and has some of the same chemicals, such as phenylethylamine (PEA), that generate feelings of love. Wine has been known to stir up feelings of lust and love, although not only because it’s made of grapes (ancient, high in nutritious antioxidants and plump with juice and seeds), but because it drowns the inhibitions.

It doesn’t require a stretch of the imagination to see why some foods or ingredients would inspire feelings of lust and love. For those newly in love, the first shared hamburger with milkshake may be remembered as the most romantic meal ever. For every couple out there enjoying the romantic month of February, there will be a moment when one food or dish, above any before it, triggers the perfect chemistry and sets off the fireworks. And always remember: It’s okay to lick the plate clean.