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The food of love

Valentine’s Day celebrations can start in the kitchen

I fondly reminisce about early courtship days before my husband and I were married. There was a week, over what must have been Christmas holidays, where we stayed in bed together fuelled by a steady diet of chocolate, red wine and love. In those days I scoffed at the idea of reserving one day – Valentine’s Day – to celebrate relationships. After all, shouldn’t we celebrate our love for one another every day of the year?

Well seven years, two careers and two children later I now understand taking the time out to reconnect, slow down and enjoy each other’s company is not as simple as it used to be. Celebrating Valentine’s Day is a good way to make sure that couples do this at least once a year! For all of you out there enjoying romance regularly, celebrating love daily, take a moment to pause and appreciate – love is beautiful.

Since the dawning of human kind, people have hoped to mimic, or augment, the natural chemical mixture that ignites the fire of romance through the use of aphrodisiacs. Historically, aphrodisiacs were used for two distinctly different functions, firstly, to increase libido or sexual desire, and secondly, as a potent mixture to increase fertility.

Unlike modern times, food was not as available to ancient people as it is to us today, with the result that nutritional deficiencies were common. Inadequate nutrition can have negative effects on the reproductive system which, in earlier times, wreaked havoc for cultures that were religiously and morally bound to procreation. Foods believed to insure male and female potency included fruits, vegetables or other items which naturally represented seeds or semen – eggs, bulbs or snails, for example. Foods that resembled the physical appearance of genitalia were thought to be sexually stimulating: asparagus, artichokes, figs, carrots, ginseng root, rhinoceros horn or bananas, to name a few.

These days, remedies for fertility and sexual dysfunction are increasingly solved through the magic of science – think Viagra. So that brings us back to the first use of aphrodisiacs, to arouse sexual desire. Science has little hope of discovering the components of "the spark" of romance between two people. The chemical processes that create the subjectivity and individuality of emotion are as impossible to decipher as the components of the soul. As such, the scientific study of aphrodisiacs is limited and inconclusive. Foods or drugs that are believed to act as aphrodisiacs operate as much out of impression and suggestion as they do out of reality. It is the receptiveness to the idea of the effectiveness of aphrodisiacs that perpetuates their use throughout the ages.

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