Aphrodisiacs are one of those things you either believe in or you don’t because there’s no real scientific evidence that any of them work. Superstitious in origin, they build on various forms of sympathetic magic (the idea that if an animal, for instance, possesses a lot of one quality, then the ingesting of the animal will give you some measure of it) or simple vitamin-boosts from what would have otherwise been lacking.
Named for Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, who was supposedly born from the sea, many seafood and shellfish varieties fall under the heading of aphrodisiacs; sort of a “gulit” by association thing (not to mention the similarity of certain foods to certain items to be affected by the aphrodisiac). Many people can’t quite stomach the thought of oysters on the half-shell and fried foods don’t always put one in the mood for love. Still, if you want to serve oysters and see how much of a spark they give, try my favorite way…
2-3 dozen small oysters, with liquor
6 green onions, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 Tbsp minced parsley (fresh)
1 quart milk
1 stick butter
Salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce to taste
Saute the green onions, celery and parsley in a little bit of the butter while you heat the rest of the butter and milk in a separate pot–heat, don’t boil! Add the oysters and liquor to the vegetables and cook until the oysters are almost cooked and then add them to the milk and butter mixture. Let the oysters cook through and season the soup with the salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Garnish with a few oyster crackers or some homemade croutons.
Often, though, it’s less about the foods you eat and more about how you eat them. Notice that many of the foods found on lists of aphrodisiacs are able, and common, to be eaten as finger foods? Set up a romantic buffet of carrot sticks, steamed artichokes (the scraping of the leaves via the teeth is remeniscent of certain romantic biting techniques from the Kama Sutra), honey-glazed figs, asparagus spears, peeled shrimp and oysters and feed them to each other in a comfortable setting. Feel free to add your own preferred foods and not stick too closely to the recommendations of this or any site: the important thing is your perception of the food and the event, not what you’re eating.
Though I would caution against overly heavy foodstuffs. Have you ever noticed that there are are no red meats listed as aphrodisiacs? I think it’s because red meat in any quantity (while undeniably satisfying from time to time) tends to weight the body down and tie up the digestive system for so long that the point, generally the immediate one, of aphrodisiacs is lost. So, if you must include some heavier proteins, keep them then, small, not overcooked and without heavy sauces.
And, no, I’m not forgetting about one major aphrodisiac. Once prized for it’s scarcity but now widely available in all manner of concoctions, a good chocolate will almost always be welcome at the end of a romantic meal (or the beginning, for that matter). And what better way to feed each other chocolate than by the very convivial means of fondue.
Chocolate Fondue for 2
4 oz plain chocolate, chopped
2/3 c heavy cream
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier or other fruit or citrus liqueur
1 Tbsp butter, diced
Bananas, strawberries, sponge cake and other foods for dipping
Melt together the chocolate, cream and liqueur in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or double-boiler, stirring constantly and without overheating. Alternately, place the mixture into a fondue pot over sterno or a tea light (depending on the fondue set). Once smooth, dip the fruit or cake into the chocolate and enjoy.
Now go start those plans for Valentine’s Day; it’s right around the corner!