madeline oh



A very short treatise on aphrodisiacs to aid with menu planning
by Madeleine Oh

The idea of foods or potions to fuel desire and boost sexual performance has occupied men (and women) since ancient times. The possibility that certain foods can supply what nature omitted seems to cross cultures and ages and a little research into foods believed to work the trick on the human mind and body, is fascinating in the extreme.

I don't know about you but marrowbone jelly might be fortifying, Catherine de Medic might have sworn by cock's combs, the Japanese may well prize eels and the Chinese bird's nests but I doubt they'd work their magic on me.

Myths and ancient faiths aside, some foods just by their nature ooze sensuality, and thus possess innate aphrodisiac qualities. Think of a ripe fig, a tomato freshly picked and still warm from the sun, a glossy purple eggplant (or aubergine), lobster drenched in butter, early summer strawberries with clotted cream, hazelnut biscotti dipped in dark, rich coffee, fresh pasta in pesto, or the jewel rich colors of a glazed fruit tart.

Setting too plays a part. Yes, it might be possible to seduce after fast food fried chicken and potato salad eaten off formica tables, surrounded by crowds and under harsh florescent lights, but imagine the same meal, eaten al fresco on the bank of a river, stretched out on a blanket with the birds overhead.

Of course, any food prepared with love provides its own seduction. Why do so many romances include a scene where the hero cooks?

So, what are the key ingredients of a seduction dinner? Great food, prepared with love, served in a relaxed and enticing setting. Pick your menu with care. A hearty pot roast with dumplings sticks to the ribs and keeps out the cold on gray winter evenings, but sits a little heavy for a night of passionate loving.

Start with something light, sensual and enticing, so the taste and texture linger on the tongue and awaken the senses : oysters on the half shell with nothing but lemon and pepper, or caviar with thin toast and chopped hard boiled egg, if your taste buds agree. If not, how about finely sliced parma ham and crisp melba toast, or a few perfect, still-warm boiled shrimp (still in the shell, so you peel them for each other), or asparagus in season (mentioned in the Karma Sutra ) with lashings of butter.

Then the main course. Steak has long been prized for it's strengthening and fortifying qualities, or for something lighter: escallops of veal in butter with parsley and lemon, or a chicken breast poached in white wine. Be sure to add mushrooms, renowned for their stimulating properties and don't forget to season it with rosemary- a long-respected aphrodisiac.

Salad? In the middle ages, rocket was banned from convent and monastery gardens on account of it's tendency to stimulate the blood. It's frequently included in the packaged salad mixes in modern grocery stores. Add a few perfectly ripe tomatoes, or love apples as they were once known.

On to dessert. Chocolate in any shape or form needs no explanation. Go for rich, smooth and intense. Add a few hazelnuts, whole or ground-Virgil praised their properties. But there are many more options. How about ripe, fresh figs with greek yogurt, honey (esteemed by the Egyptians) and walnuts (used by the Romans in fertility rites). Ripe strawberries, raspberries and blueberries with a dusting of powdered sugar and lashings of rich cream. A perfect peach, sliced and served, Sicilian style, in a glass of Marsala. And never overlook the renowned properties of a sweet, chilled pomegranate.

And to drink with this amorous feast? Wine perhaps, or champagne, cold and enticing, the bubbles kissing the skin as you drink. Better still share, that glass with your lover. But treat all alcohol with respect and moderation. Remember Shakespeare's dictum that it 'Provoketh desire but takes away the performance.'

Not the desired result at all, so better not over do things.

Bon appetit and a very good night to you.