Love & Food: Aphrodisiacs

by Vicki Reich, Winter Ridge Store Manager
This post originally appeared on Vicki’s blog, Word of Mouth, in February 2008

I love food. I love everything about it; the colors and textures of the produce as I buy it, the feel of my knife slicing through whatever I happen to be chopping, the smells that emanate from my skillet, and, of course, the incredible variety of flavors that all the food available to us can produce. One of the other things I love about food is sharing it with the people I care about. It is one of my favorite ways to say “I love you”.
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I started thinking about how food can play a part in this celebration of love. As I composed a romantic menu in my head, I began to think about aphrodisiacs and how I could incorporate them into my meal. I knew chocolate and oysters were supposed to increase sexual desire but wanted to base my menu on a greater variety of foods. Enter the Internet. There are lots of lists of aphrodisiacs on the Web and the foods are similar on all of them. I started planning my menu.

I decided to start with a salad of arugula, celery, cucumber and pine nuts. Arugula has been considered a sexual stimulant since the first century. Celery contains androsterone, a male hormone that may be released in sweat and attracts women. Pinenuts contain zinc, which is purported to help maintain male virility. The Chicago Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation found that women become aroused by the scent of cucumbers. I seemed to be off to a good start.
Next comes a steaming bowl full of Mussels in White Wine Broth. Have you ever taken a good look at a mussel? These are sexy little devils. Their likeness to the female sex has been known to turn on even the most jaded of men. And eating them with your fingers and then sipping the delicious broth right from the bowl is very liberating. Make sure you lick those fingers in a seductive way (yours and your partners) and don’t slurp too loud.
For the main course I’ll serve filet mignon with caramelized onions with side dishes of saffron rice and braised fennel and carrots, all served with a nice red wine. Beef is a great aphrodisiac because it provided you with the amino acid l-tyrosine that your body converts into dopamine and norepinephrine, which enhance concentration and alertness. And the tender mouth feel of this prime cut is a very sensuous experience. Onions are considered an aphrodisiac in many cultures. In France they are served to newlyweds the morning after their wedding to renew their libido. Egyptian priests stay away from them to avoid the lusty thoughts they can induce. Rice is considered a symbol of fertility and is thrown at weddings for good luck and to encourage the couple to have many children. Saffron, which comes from the sex organs of a crocus, is purported to enhance the sensitivity of erogenous zones of the people who consume it (as well as making the rice that beautiful shade of yellow). Both fennel and carrots have a long history across many cultures as an aphrodisiac. Wine, of course, has been used to put people in the mood since it was first discovered. It lowers inhibitions and reduces stress, but don’t drink too much or you’ll just fall asleep after dinner. A glass or maybe two is all you need.
And for dessert, bananas foster over chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Bananas are considered an aphrodisiac because, well, they do resemble an important part of the male anatomy. Chocolate, one of the best-known aphrodisiacs, contains over 400 different chemical compounds. One of these is phenylethylamine, which some scientists believe give us the same feelings as first being in love. Vanilla is also thought to increase sexual desire and ice cream of any kind can be a turn-on, especially if served from unusual places in bed.
Almost every food at one point in history has been considered an aphrodisiac. Food and sex have been linked since the beginning of time since both are necessary for the survival of our species. Whether certain foods really hold more power to turn us on is always being questioned but it sure is fun to experiment and see if they work for you.
Mussels in White Wine Broth
2 tbls. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
2 lb Mussels, cleaned and debearded
Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large stock pot. Add onions and garlic and sauté until onions begin to soften. Add celery and cook 3 more minutes. Add white wine and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and cover. Steam mussels for 8-10 minutes, shaking occasionally until all the mussels open. Serve mussels steaming hot in bowls with lots of the broth.
Bananas Foster
2 ripe bananas, cut in half lengthwise
4 tbls Butter
¼ c. Brown Sugar
¼ tsp. Cinnamon
¼ c. Banana liqueur
½ c. Rum
Melt the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a frying pan until it forms a syrup. Add the bananas, cut side down and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat, basting them with the sauce. Meanwhile combine the rum and liqueur and warm it carefully on the stove. When the bananas are done, pour the warn liquor over them and light with a match. Serve immediately over ice cream. Serves 2.


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