Valentine’s Day is a lovely opportunity to court your beloved with aromatic and delicious offerings from your kitchen. And there are a wide range of ingredients for enhancing libido and supercharging affections. Popular folklore has for centuries included these on menus for love. Here are a few of the more notable ingredients.
Of all the foods eaten by humankind, none have been associated with eroticism and love more than truffles – a relatively unknown delectable underground vegetable. For centuries, truffles have been considered by many as the ultimate aphrodisiac that made women tender and men more apt to love.
The Romans even dedicated truffles to Venus in the belief that they stimulated love. In France, where the aphrodisiac qualities of truffles have been appreciated for centuries, there is a saying that “if a man is rich enough to eat truffles, his loves will be plenty.” The reputation of truffles as a potent aphrodisiac and a love-food without equal could have some elements of truth. They contain a good amount of phosphorus and iron, both of which have an arousing effect on sexual activity.
Fish has long been associated with aphrodisiac powers. Some ancient religions even forbade consumption of fish among their priests. It was believed that eating sea animals made one ardent in love. The Greek poet Asclepiades advocated a meal of fish for anyone planning to spend an evening with a willing woman. In Roman times, a fish sauce was made to arouse sexual feelings. Madame Pompadour, the greatest of French mistresses, often dined on seafood as a prelude to l’amour. Casanova, who usually ate 50 oysters for breakfast, firmly believed that fish would increase his sexual powers.
This association of fish with sex has some scientific basis. R. Henderickson in Lewd Food points out that fish contains an amount of phosphorous which has a limited but direct reaction to the genito-urinary tract. Others have asserted that the phosphorous and iodine content of sea creatures affects a direct reaction upon males and females alike. In North African countries where they are employed extensively in cooking, many believe that chickpeas increase the energy and sexual desires of both men and women. Shaykh Umar Abu Muhammad, a 16th century North African Arab writer, in his book The Perfumed Garden, suggests chickpeas as a cure for impotence and a first-rate sexual stimulant.
Known for decades as “scarlet love apples”’ or “golden love apples”, tomatoes became the favourite of sweethearts and a symbol of passion. Their reputation as a wicked, sensuous and powerful sexual stimulant made them feared by virtuous maidens. The expression “hot tomato” for a willing woman is common in many languages.
Honey has a renowned aphrodisiac reputation – valued for millennia as a love food. The Greek physician Galen and the Roman poet Ovid recommended it to lovers. In Roman mythology, Amor, the god of love, before smiting lovers, dipped his arrows in honey, while the Chinese utilized it as a binder in aphrodisiac drinks. A good number of Arabs have always believed that consuming honey prolonged the sexual act. For instance, in Morocco, wedding guests are offered honey and after the wedding the groom feasts on honey to which common folklore attributes a powerful aphrodisiac effect.
The banana, due to its erotic appearance, through the ages, has been considered a true love food. It is included in Indian offerings to their fertility gods and in a dozen languages, is a synonym for the male organ. According to Hendrickson in Lewd Food, the expression, “I had a banana with Lady Diana” was, from the beginning of the century up until about 1930, English slang for intercourse.
Among the ancient civilizations of the Middle East, the pomegranate was a symbol of fertility. The Romans believed its ovules to be an aphrodisiac – a belief which in later centuries spread to all parts of Europe. Hence, many labelled it the “love fruit”. In Arabic folklore and poetry, this fruit has always been a synonym for the female breast.
Other foods with a sexual reputation are avocados, which the Aztecs believed had aphrodisiac qualities. They named it ahacatl, meaning green testicle, because to them it not only resembled a testicle but aroused sexual passion as well. To the Chinese, apricot blossoms were a symbol of love and seduction, and in some cultures sesame seeds were eaten to restore vitality and sex appeal.
Last but not least, molokhia (Jews Mellow), a popular green in the Middle East from time immemorial, was thought to be a sexual stimulant that made women stray into the arms of strange men. Al-Hakim bi-‘Amr Allah, a Fatimid Caliph of Egypt in the 10th and 11th centuries, banned molokhia because he believed it led men and women into a life of debauchery.
RECIPES FOR A VALENTINE MEAL
Here are some ideas for a nourishing, loving meal, to be enjoyed with one special person or a group of friends. If it’s just dinner for two, cut all ingredient portions in half.