At one time or other, in one culture or another, almost all types of food have been considered aphrodisiacs. A food's taste, shape, chemical properties or relationship to nature might instigate its designation as an aphrodisiac, but whether any truly amorous reaction occurs is purely speculative.
Asparagus, leeks, and cucumbers are elements of the "loved for its shape" category. The Marquis de Sade's favorite aphrodisiac, Spanish Fly, is made from a crushed beetle which, when ingested, produces a better blood flow, thereby affecting sexual performance, but it has also been found to be lethal and damaging to the kidneys. Ancient cultures associated fruits of the earth, the ultimate mother, with mankind's own ability to procreate.
Most romance experts agree that it is not necessarily what you eat, but how you eat it and the emotional state you and your companion might already be in. (If any of you out there are ancient enough to remember the classic eating scene in the movie Tom Jones, you'll know what I mean.) of course, certain foods, like pickled cabbage or liver and onions, may be enjoyable on an everyday basis, but if served on Valentine's Day would probably be considered anti-romantic. Here are some of the more appealing foods that fall within the potentially "aphrodisiac" category:
Cinnamon—We are told cinnamon was the attar used by Queen of Sheba to captivate King Solomon.
Cloves—Because of the shape, cloves are considered an aphrodisiac for males, especially in Asia. Indonesian parents plant a clove tree when they bear a son, so both will prosper as they grow up together.
Ginger—A cousin of the gladiola, the ginger's pure white blossoms are thought to be a love portion, because a woman wearing the aromatic bloom is so alluring. Egyptian traders originally brought it to Roma as an aphrodisiac.
Almonds—Samson courted Delilah with fragrant almond branches. Ancient Persians perfumed almonds in jars with flower petals before using them in desserts.
Basil—Hindu males say it is an aphrodisiac because it resembles the female organ.
Mint—In mythology, the dainty nymph Mente was turned into greenery by her envious rival, Persephone, wife of Pluto. Pluto found Mente irresistible, particularly her aroma. Hence, mint was thought to be an aphrodisiac.
Tomato—Often called the love apple. Contrary to popular belief, the tomato received this appellation not because it was originally considered an aphrodisiac, but because of a hearing problem. The Spanish brought the tomato back from the New World and called it 'manzana' or apple because that is what they thought it was. Early tomatoes were yellow, so Italians called them pomo d'or—apple of gold. Around that time, tomatoes, like eggplant, were thought by some to be poisonous, because they happen to be botanical members of the nightshade family, which includes some toxic relatives. So, to disassociate the tomato from its poisonous reputation, the Italians changed the name to pomo d'Moro (apple of the Moors, of the Spanish). Later, a Frenchman touring Italy asked for the name of this unusual ingredient and misunderstood it to be pomme d'amour—love apple. The misnomer rapidly spread throughout Europe and became synonymous with the juicy red fruit ever since. It is not, however, considered to be the source of Adam's temptation, as many armchair theorists would have you believe.
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