aph-ro-di-si-ac : noun; 1. an agent (as a food or drug) that arouses or is held to arouse sexual desire; 2. something that excites. Merriam Webster Dictionary
When you think of Valentine's Day, which images first come to your mind? Flowers? Cupid? Large, red, heart boxes with chocolates inside? Heart-shaped cookies with pink sugar on top? A romantic, candlelight dinner for two with a bottle of wine?
If you are like most Americans, it would be a combination of all of the above. Our romantic fantasies may begin with Cupid and flowers, but somehow they always seem to end with luscious food.
Much of this comes from a universal belief that certain food and beverages have mystical properties that create sexual attraction between two people. Every culture has its own magical foods. In America, chocolate, oysters, and champagne lead the pack of favorite aphrodisiacs. But whether it's something inherent in the food or the power of the mind believing in the food's qualities is something science has been unable to prove conclusively.
Some aphrodisiac foods, such as bananas, oranges or oysters, gain their powers through their resemblance to sexual body parts. The magic of champagnes and wines can best be attributed to their ability to lower one's inhibitions. And then there are other foods, such as chocolate, that make us feel good. In some cases it can be attributed to certain chemicals they release in our bodies, as chocolate has been proven to do. In others, it's that they excite many of our senses through a combination of taste, texture and appearance.
In fact, many foods considered to be aphrodisiacs are really everyday items. Almost everyone, young, old, single or married, eats bananas. But bananas in a brown paper lunch sack don't have the same powers to seduce as a sweet, buttery, Bananas Foster does when served at the end of a romantic, candlelight dinner for two. That's why context, and a little attention to detail, is so important, and maybe even more so than the foods themselves.
If you've set the mood with romantic colors, flowers, soft music, a bottle of wine, and candles, even a hamburger could become an aphrodisiac!
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