This Valentine's Day turn to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and desire created from sea foam. No wonder that when we talk about food with an aphrodisiac effect, many times they come from the very same place—take oysters and lobsters, for example. But the earth—with all its roots and herbs—is full of substances that liberate us, ignite our passions, and increase our sexual performance.
The Mayans made prolific use of cocoa (which contains a high dose of Phenethylamine), in their intoxicating drink, xocolatti (“bitter water”), which also contained cinnamon and corn flour and was thought to provoke violent bouts of passion, much like a natural form of Viagra.
Figs and almonds were Cleopatra’s secret weapons, which she used to seduce Marc Anthony and were always present in the lavish harvest banquets during that era. Fiery figures like the Marquis de Sade, Napoleon Bonaparte and Catherine of Russia turned to truffles when it was time to turn on the romance, while Shakespeare makes potent reference to herbs like mint and rosemary.
So why not turn to these very ingredients when preparing our Valentine’s day dinner? No matter whether you believe the effects to be scientific or simply folklore, taking time to create a special menu and creating a special sense of ambiance with music and candle light will certainly be much more romantic than a dinner in front of the television set with your beloved.
You can even dial up the desire by scent: try boiling a cinnamon stick and vanilla in a little water to create a warm, sensual smell in the air. Of course, there are many aromatic candles and even incense that claim to do the very same thing, but their active ingredients always include essential oils that come from natural substances. At dinner, be sure to serve small canapés or finger foods like vegetables à la julienne with a saffron-infused cheese.
Eating with your hands is a kind of culinary foreplay that creates intimacy between two people. To reduce embarrassment and shyness, the Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests a glass of red wine: it stimulates the female libido more than champagne and increases blood flow in males in “key” areas. Try Chianti, Brunello or Negroamaro as variants—but don’t overindulge or you could find it to have the reverse effect on the very same bodily functions.
Next, try chickpea crepes filled with asparagus and peanut mousse. Asparagus is believed to increase desire in both men and women, and their tips were used by women in Medieval times, wrapped in rose petals, who swallowed them as pills.
To finish? A sumptuous mousse of chocolate and chili pepper—a dish that contains capsaicin, a compound that produces endorphins and brings many people into a naturally euphoric state, perfect for the giving and receiving of hot, spicy kisses.
A study conducted by the University of Naples shows evidence that the Mediterranean diet is naturally rich in aphrodisiac ingredients. “The anti-oxidant propriety of the food has a beneficial effect on the arteries and, therefore, on sexual performance.”
But what do those experts in Naples—the homeland of pizza—think of the recipe proposed by the British food retailer Iceland, which offers customers a dish called “Pizzagra”, (pizza + "viagra") with supposed aphrodisiac properties? The pizza is topped with artichokes, asparagus, ginger, garlic, onion, chocolate, strawberries and banana and claims to “set pulses racing and libidos leaping”.