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Conjuring Up Love With Aphrodisiacs

Aphrodisiac – the word itself almost seems magical, conjuring up images of Spanish fly, powdered Rhino horn, and other exotic ingredients meant to wield power over unsuspecting souls.

Throughout history, lovers have depended on love potions enhanced with charms of enchantment for those hearts stubborn to cupid's arrow -- a secret ingredient slipped into a goblet of wine, an elaborate concoction gulped down for stamina. The rarer the ingredient, the more likely it held aphrodisiacal qualities and the more an ingredient resembled a sexual organ, the stronger its power over the libido.

Explanation or no explanation, anyone who has ever fed a lover grapes knows that aphrodisiacs do exist. Anyone who has served an elaborate candlelit meal, painstakingly prepared with love, knows the potential power of food. We don't need scientific proof; we need only experience aphrodisiacs for ourselves to know that they are, in fact, a very potent force at our disposal, especially when combined with ambiance or love. With sensuality or eroticism. With simplicity or grandiosity.

From the long-planned-for anniversary dinner to the unexpected glass of fresh-squeezed juice, the act of preparing food for another (or with another) speaks louder and clearer than most words. It says, with no exceptions, I love you. I want you. I care for you. You are worth the effort.

Ready to indulge in the more decadent pleasures? Delight your date's senses with one of these tempting aphrodisiac treasures. Bon appetit!

Adapted from: Intercourses, an aphrodisiac cookbook
By Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge. Photo by Ben Fink.


"May the wine go straight to my lover, flowing gently over lips and teeth. I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me."

Song of Songs 7:7-10

Libations transform the could've beens into reality. Through time, alcohol has been the basis for most love potions, masking foul tastes of bizarre ingredients. Today, we rely on alcohol not for its hocus-pocus concoctions of wormwood and such, but for its innate aphrodisiacal powers alone. After a mere drink or two, it lowers inhibitions and allows people to do what they only fantasized as a possibility just one hour before.


wine-soaked cherries and pears over pound cake

Cherries and pears have an abundance of aphrodisiacal qualities just their own, a fact all too apparent in wine-soaked cherries and pears over pound cake. The warm, succulent fruit saturated with wine will elicit a heartfelt "Oh!," the sweet, melting cream will conjure up images of The Promised Land, and all will be yours tonight and forevermore.

1/2 cup red wine (the better the wine, the better the dish)
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
3/4 pound cherries, pitted
2 pears, peeled and sliced
2 thick slices pound cake
softened butter to taste
whipped cream for topping

Combine the sugar, wine, and lemon rind in a medium saucepan.
Stir until the sugar dissolves.
Stir in the cherries.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the pears, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the pears, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
Spread the pound cake with butter and toast to a golden brown.
Generously spoon with fruit and juices over the cake.
Serve warm, topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

yields 2 servings

Adapted from: Intercourses, an aphrodisiac cookbook, by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge. Photo by Ben Fink.

"I placed the shell on the edge of her lips and after a good deal of laughing, she sucked in the oyster, which she held between her lips. I instantly recovered it by placing my lips on hers...My agreeable surprise may be imagined when I heard her say that it was my turn to hold the oysters..."

– Casanova, Memoirs, Volume 6, Translated by Vera Lee in Secrets of Venus.

Oysters, perhaps the greatest of all aphrodisiacs, symbolize virility and passion. From Petronius to Casanova, oysters have unleashed their powers of seduction on unwitting prey and restored life to lagging libidos. The oyster's powers are best when eaten on the half shell, when most reminiscent of key body parts. Consider also the nutritional benefits. Oysters are low in fat, high in complex sugars and proteins, and loaded with zinc, a key ingredient to testosterone production and, hence, sexual performance for both genders.


baked oysters with chardonnay

Some see the closed shell of the oyster as the male testes, while others see the fresh oyster itself as better representation. But few can debate the beauty (or implications) of the oyster resting in its half shell, nether petals of pink and gray fluttering out from the meat onto the pearly white backdrop.

24 oysters on the half shell
2 shallots, minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup Chardonnay or other dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Madras curry
salt and pepper to taste

Drain the oysters, reserving the juice.
Sauté the shallot in butter in a skillet for 1 minute to soften.
Add the wine. Bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half.
Add the reserved oyster juice.
Cook for 2 minutes.
Strain into a saucepan, discarding solids.
Stir in the cream.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. (Thicken with flour-water mixture if necessary.)
Stir in the curry and salt.
Arrange the oysters (in shells) in a roasting pan.
Season with pepper and 1 tablespoon of sauce each.
Bake at 450 degrees for 3 to 4 minutes or until the oysters are cooked and the cream is beginning to brown.
Garnish with watercress.

yields 2 servings

Adapted from: Intercourses, an aphrodisiac cookbook, by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge. Photo by Ben Fink.

"The blissful mornings. Fire crackling. Rain pounding. Mist rising up the cliffs to the cabin. A warm smile and gentle hands offering me a mug of rich, steaming hot cocoa, always followed by a kiss. It was the simplicity and love that ultimately made the moment sexy...."

– Diego, on hot chocolate and love in Big Sur

Chocolate, a tried and true staple for lovers through the ages, now has backing from the scientific community. Besides the jolt of caffeine served up in a piece of chocolate, this savory candy also contains PEA, or phenylethylamine, the very same molecule that courses through the veins of one who is in love. Combine our internal stores of this natural amphetamine with chocolate, and one only heightens that giddy sensation known as love.


The Aztecs and Mayans were the first to recognize the potency of chocolate, celebrating the harvest of the cacao bean with festivals of wild orgies. The Aztec ruler, Montezuma, reportedly drank 50 cups of chocolate each day to better serve his harem of 600 women. The belief in chocolate carried on through the Mayan empire where payment for a night at the brothel cost on handful of cacao beans. Seventeenth-century church officials deemed it sinful to partake of chocolate.

1/2 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1/4 cup strawberry preserves
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
strawberries for garnish

Combine the almonds and cocoa powder in a small bowl.
Cream the butter and sugars in a bowl until fluffy.
Beat in the eggs and the vanilla.
Fold in the almond mixture, then the fresh strawberries.
Spoon mixture into a greased 8-inch springform pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes or until cake tests done.
Cool completely.
Remove from the pan.
Spread with the strawberry preserves.
Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan.
Remove from heat and add chocolate chips.
Stir until smooth; cool for 5 minutes.
Pour over top of cake (let drizzle down the sides).
Garnish with fresh strawberries if desired.

Adapted from: Intercourses, an aphrodisiac cookbook, by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge. Photo by Ben Fink.