suggestions to tantalize the tastebuds—and the more exotic
Nash, in “Reflections on Ice-Breaking,” epitomized it thus:
“Candy/Is dandy/But liquor/Is quicker.” Chocolate and booze
are distinguished staples of courtship, but sometimes you
just want to hit the sack. Is there any grub that will help?
We are an admirably goofy species. We name a favored destination
“pudendum” from a Latin word (phrase, actually) meaning “something
of which to be ashamed,” and go on to obsess about it. We
note that nature has scattered phallic and pudendal whatnots
hither and yon and decide that if it’s in the least bit edible
it will send magical powers to the thus-aped place. From the
travesty of killing rhinos for their horns to the silliness
of wolfing down forests of asparagus, we’ve ingested plenty
in pursuit of a reliably randy-making nostrum.
Recently, I presented a class at the Arts Center of the Capital
Region on this theme, where we looked at a list of putatively
aphrodisiac foods and cooked and sampled some of them. Although
I can’t vouch for any farther-reaching effects, I can tell
you that nobody’s morals were challenged during our time together.
Herewith, a few recipes. Try them as part of your own Valentine’s
Day tête à tête, but keep in mind that the most effectively
phallic items on your table are the candles with which you
illuminate the meal.
(Serves 4 or so)
Avocado: Not phallic so much as testicular, or so the
Aztecs decided when they named the tree that’s the source
of this fruit the “testicle tree” because avocados hang in
suggestive pairs. It’s a nice addition to salads, good on
its own with a splash of vinegar, and, of course, the foundation
of guacamole. Garlic, another component of this dish, has
many magic-bullet adherents, while nutmeg has a history as
a Chinese love dust.
6 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
2 ounces lemon juice
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper
1 bag of tortilla chips
Peel the avocados and discard (or grow a tree from) the pit.
Chop into small chunks and put the chunks in a bowl. Peel,
smash, and chop the garlic cloves. Add to the bowl. Peel and
dice the onion. Add to the bowl. Add enough lemon juice to
moisten the mixture—probably a couple of ounces. Add the cumin
and a dusting of nutmeg, and mash the whole mess with a fork.
Salt and pepper to taste. Hot sauce is optional. Tomatoes
make it a different, more Californian dish. Serve with tortilla
with Hollandaise (Serves about 6)
Asparagus: Gets its supposed amatory power from its phallic
aspect, which ought to have us also gnawing on baseball bats.
The Vegetarian Society suggests eating asparagus for three
days “for the most powerful effect,” which will be realized
post-micturation if nowhere else. The best part of this recipe
may be the Hollandaise sauce, not acknowledged as an aphrodisiac
per se, but sinful enough to count for something.
2 bunches of asparagus
3 egg yolks
6 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
salt and pepper
Make the Hollandaise sauce first. Clarify more butter than
you think you’ll need—you lose about 25 percent of it in the
process—putting a few sticks in a saucepan over very low heat.
Avoid the microwave (you want to keep an eye on it to prevent
it from boiling). Once the butter is melted, remove it from
the heat and skim the foam (whey) from the top with a ladle.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the egg yolks, a splash
of lemon juice, a teaspoon of mustard and a dash of Worcestershire
sauce. Froth it together with rapid strokes of a balloon whisk.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and continue to whisk
the mixture with a steady rhythm, taking care that the egg
yolks don’t solidify at the corners of the pan. When it reaches
a firm consistency and pale yellow color, remove the saucepan
from the heat, continuing to whisk all the while.
Ladle the butter from its saucepan, taking care not to get
any of the milk solids that float at the bottom. Add the butter
to the egg yolk mixture in a steady stream until you reach
a desired flavor and consistency.
Add about two inches of water to the bottom section of the
steamer and place over medium-high heat. Snap the woody bottoms
from the asparagus and place the spears in the steamer’s upper
section. Add salt, pepper, and a dash of lemon juice; steam
the asparagus until the thickest stalks are tender but still
crunchy. Top each serving with a ribbon of Hollandaise.
(Almond tart with pineapple—serves 8)
Almond: Samson wooed Delilah with almond branches, and
look where that got him. But the aroma is supposed to drive
ladies wild and keep the guys from wiping out too soon, which
has caused that essence to appear in desserts, perfume, even
bathwater. Frangipane is a classic almond tart. This recipe
eliminates the need for a crust. It also works in pineapple,
a homeopathic treatment for impotence, but more reliable as
a component of rum-based beverages.
This can be topped with any sliced fruit after it’s baked.
3 cups of almonds, blanched or roasted (1 pound)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 ounces apricot jelly
1 1/2 ounces orange essence, amaretto, or the like
1 ounce brandy
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and divided into slices and a half-cup
1 tsp. butter
9 1/2-inch tart pan with loose bottom
Peel the pineapple, removing as much of the tough spots as
possible. Core the pineapple. Slice enough thin wedges to
more than cover the top of the tart pan, reserving about a
half cup of chunks.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the tart pan with a coating
of butter. Put all of the ingredients except the pineapple
slices in a food processor and process until fairly smooth.
Spoon the mixture into the tart pan. Bake the tart for 25
to 30 minutes. As it cools, fan the pineapple wedges across
the top, overlapping as you go. Give it a brief turn under
the broiler if you like. Heat the apricot jelly and use a
pastry brush to coat the top of the pineapple slices with
it. Cool, dislodge and serve.
Mousse (Serves 8)
Chocolate: The Aztecs, who clearly pondered these things,
called chocolate a “nourishment of the Gods.” Chocolate contains
chemicals thought to stimulate the brain’s neurotransmitters.
It offers more antioxidant enzymes than red wine, but that’s
no reason not to combine the two, per Ogden Nash’s advice.
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 eggs, separated
2 Tbsp. espresso
4 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 ounces chilled heavy cream (not “whipping cream”)
1 tsp. vanilla
hand or stand mixer
Chill a bowl and the mixer beaters. Heat (double boiler or
microwave on low) the chocolate, butter, and espresso until
melted. Stir and let cool until warm to the touch. Whisk in
the egg yolks.
Pour the heavy cream into the chilled bowl. Whip with the
chilled beaters; as the mixture grows stiff, add the vanilla
and 2 Tbsp. sugar. Whip to a state of not-too-stiff peaks
and refrigerate. In a clean bowl, and with clean beaters,
whip the egg whites, adding 2 Tbsp. sugar as it stiffens.
Whip to the consistency of shaving cream.
Fold the whipped cream and the egg whites into the chocolate
mixture, alternating as you go, working the mixture as little
as possible. It should look still mossy when complete. Spoon
into serving dishes and chill; garnish with chocolate shavings.
the best way to say “I love you” is with a meal that does
I’ve never been presented with a heart-shaped box of chocolates
(hint, hint), I’ve been wooed by plenty of food. Who hasn’t?
I especially remember the meals that flopped. The presentation
of coffee at midnight, even if it was Kona, didn’t float my
insomniac boat. I’m suspicious of bivalves, so ordering oyster
stew for me while I freshened up had no charm. Only one person
invited me to Pizza Hut, and that was in 1981. Couldn’t he
tell from the way I never bought school lunch that I didn’t
like other people’s food?
Moral of the story: Know me before you feed me. Show that
knowledge in your choices, and you might steer your way to
my heart. My husband made me buckwheat pancakes for my birthday
this year. When I got up, the batter was ready and the griddle
was hot. The love was edible, slathered with butter and maple
syrup. We made dinner together that afternoon, a beef stew
with coriander, ginger and garlic, butternut squash, celery
root and carrots. Instead of cake, he made a peach pie.
He has courted me with lobsters in Maine and at home with
the kids. He hid a garnet ring in a salad with pomegranate
seeds. We’ve spent hours scouring odd markets for ingredients
for perfect meals. Hours talking about food: how to grow,
cook, or preserve most anything under the sun.
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,
and the way to a woman’s heart is through her brain. Think
with me about food. Help me salt the stew. Pick cherries for
me in June, and pit them by the fire in January. When cooking
for your Valentine, it really is the thought that counts.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
digging in as much as you are in order to eat
well while money is scarce. So I thought I’d share
some tips and techniques, and will do so over
four weeks at the Arts Center of the Capital
Region in Troy, with a class called Cooking
for the New Economy. Make your shopping trips
more efficient and plan menus without waste. Can
I cook anywhere as well as those I criticize?
Find out and enjoy some (putatively) tasty food
over the course of four Mondays (Jan. 24-Feb.
14) from 6 to 9 PM. More info at artscenteronline.org.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.