Valentine’s Day is the traditional time to split a box of candy with your sweetie. The habit of trading sweets for smooches dates back to the February holiday we know today.
Since the first early human tried to woo a mate with ripe fruit or mastodon steak, people have been searching for ways to use one sensual pleasure to attain another. Across cultures, people are obsessed with the idea of aphrodisiacs – potent foods that arouse passions and capture hearts.
Most foods known for lust-inducing power are simply powerfully flavorful. A number of spices are so effective at stimulating the appetite (for food, at least) that their use was discouraged by moral figures in favor of less inspiring foods (cornflakes, anyone?), lest the eater get carried away. Other items were prized for their rarity, source or shape, even if their efficacy is questionable. The list of alleged aphrodisiacs ranges from futile (powdered rhino horn) to potentially fatal (Spanish fly), but scientific research suggests that several seemingly chaste ingredients have more to add to your next romantic dinner than just flavor.
Those desiring an all-powerful love potion might search their pantries without satisfaction – no known aphrodisiac creates desire where none exists. However, if there is already a spark, a few foods seem to stoke the flames. Most aphrodisiacs work through mood effects that make you feel love-friendly, or by titillating the senses, whetting the appetite for other pleasures. If you are looking to heat up your romantic life (or at least heat up the oven), consider incorporating the following ingredients on your next dinner date.
• Chocolate. After powdered rhino horn, chocolate is the quintessential aphrodisiac – and it is certainly much tastier. Research shows that consuming chocolate causes your brain to release endorphins, the same chemicals associated with the feelings of happiness and euphoria that accompany love.
• Coffee. Recent studies in the United Kingdom suggest that caffeine boosts amorous intentions in females. The catch? The study was conducted on female rats.
• Capsaicin. This alleged aphrodisiac adds spiciness to hot peppers, and it may add spiciness to your love life: the chemical’s effects (increased heart rate, breathing and blood flow) mimic those of romantic interest.
Use such ingredients with care – you might excite more than just your taste buds.
Triple Aphrodisiac Cookies
These rich, invigorating cookies will leave your lips with a pleasant, warm glow.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean
1 1/8 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne, to taste
2 teaspoons finely ground fresh coffee beans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream together butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. Sift all dry ingredients together and blend into butter/sugar mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Roll into 1.5- to 2-inch balls and place on greased/floured or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on rack 5-10 minutes before serving. (As with all sensual pleasures, anticipation is everything.)