Aphrodisiacs: The Sensuality of Eating

By Julia Burgi

Is the way to a person's heart truly through their stomach? Scientists have shut down the idea that particular foods can be physiologically arousing, but multiple cultural traditions claim the sensuality of eating and potency of special foods called aphrodisiacs. Some of these conventions go back hundreds or thousands of years!

Perhaps the most famous example is chocolate, from the ancient Mexican Aztec civilization. Chocolate as an aphrodisiac later took hold of 18th century Western imaginations -- even today, we give our sweethearts chocolate on Valentine's Day in hopes of winning them over.

Across places and time, food has been revered for its erotic potential.

Some of these superstitions were based on taste while others were based on the shape of the food. Anise, a liquorice-ish delicacy, unlike most spices Romans had a penchant for, is native to the Mediterranean. The Romans tried to rouse each other with anise, both as an aphrodisiac and a poison remedy.

From Middle East we have the Persians ritual of sprinkling newlyweds' bed with saffron and the ancient Egyptians suggestion of honey to remedy issues of fertility.

In the New World, foods with a masculine appearance on ripening trees were touted as having libido animating powers. Spanish imperialists were told by their priests to be wary of the lust-inspiring powers of the spicy pepper. Mexicans sought avocados to energize their passions and invigorate their desires.

What else can you put on your Valentine's Day menu? Avocados, nutmeg, oysters, and truffles also top the list of romantic treats. Savor these luxuries with someone special!

To read more, see Saveur's slideshow.