It’s been rumored that some foods have the ability to put hearts in your eyes. We talked to Francine Segan, one of America’s foremost experts on Italian cuisine, a noted food historian, and James Beard-nominated author of six books including Dolci: Italy’s Sweets and Pasta Modern, and asked her to share her knowledge of aphrodisiacs just in time for our annual Month of Love. Learn more about how to add sparks to your V-Day after the jump.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an aphrodisiac is a drug or food that invokes lust. Below, Francine details five of the most delicious foods that have been considered aphrodisiacs for centuries.
Aphrodisiacs were named for Aphrodite, the goddess of love. According to ancient Greek myth, Aphrodite was born from the sea and arrived ashore transported by either an oyster or scallop shell. Because of her sea connection all seafood, but especially shellfish, was considered an aphrodisiac since ancient Greek times.
Cacao beans, essential to making chocolate, first made their way to Europe from the New World in the 1500s. Once it arrived, physicians and health writers began to study it and decided it was not only an aphrodisiac but also a cure-all for many ills including indigestion. Casanova, famed writer of the 1700s, devoted several pages in his memoir to how effective chocolate was in getting women in the mood.
3. Chili Peppers and Cayenne
For hundreds of years spices that tingle the tongue—like red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and ginger—were thought to be aphrodisiacs. The idea being that if they make the tongue tingle they will make other body parts tingle, too! Chili peppers and these spices quicken the pulse and induce perspiration, which mimics the state of sexual arousal and stimulates the release of endorphins.
4. Strawberries and Raspberries
Because of their seductive color, strawberries were called “fruit nipples” and considered powerful aphrodisiacs during the Renaissance period.
The ancient Greeks and Romans worshiped and held yearly festivals for the wine god Bacchus, also called Dionysus, who was born from an affair between the god Zeus and a mortal woman. Wine, for the ancients, was not just a nice drink to have with dinner, but thought to be absolutely essential to good health. At that time, water was often filled with dangerous germs, whereas wine was safe. More than just essential to good health, wine was believed to be essential to life, making it one of the first and most popular aphrodisiacs.