February 13th, 2017

Aphrodisiacs: The Valentine’s Day Love Potion

aphrodisiacs valentines

Most of us are like-minded when it comes to the topic of aphrodisiacs, especially with Valentine’s Day a few days away. We can’t help but snicker at the thought of their purpose. Fruits, spices, or liquors that evoke sensual feelings present a fun diversion for adult couples. There are many interesting assertions surrounding aphrodisiacs including the nutritional benefits they offer and their potentially controversial side stories.


CIA Professor of Culinary Science Jonathan Zearfoss has studied aphrodisiacs, and in his work mentions a theory called the Doctrine of Signatures. It states, if a plant or herb resembles human body parts or organs then it will supposedly positively benefit those body parts or organs. Chef William Phillips notes how avocados look like the cervix of a female and therefore are believed to assist in the menstrual cycle. In fact, this idea of avocados and reproductive health dates back to the Aztecs.


Chef Phillips says zinc and oysters have a reputation for being good for men’s sexual health. Zinc has been used as a supplement to increase male testosterone levels. Chef Zearfoss said that because oysters are usually eaten while alive, the idea of “taking on a life force” may be a factor in why live oysters are seen as something more than just food. Saffron, the vibrant culinary delicacy, is also used to increase libido levels or sex drive. You can steep it in tea or—as Queen Cleopatra did—bathe in it.


Potentially harmful foods are sometimes consumed for their supposed aphrodisiac qualities. Many of us have heard about fugu, the tetrodotoxin poison-containing blowfish of Japan. This fish is considered an aphrodisiac because of the mouth-numbing sensation it gives those who eat a non-toxic amount of it. Talk about taking risks! Yarsagumba, found in Nepal, is a fungus that grows on caterpillars and is known for its amorous effects. Studies in Chinese medicine tell us the fungus is boiled and consumed in hot tea or soup.


Not everyone agrees that aphrodisiacs actually exist. Chocolate is probably one of the most commonly heralded aphrodisiacs. According to The New York Times article “The Claim: Chocolate is an Aphrodisiac,” research found this to be a false assertion. Although chocolate contains tryptophan, which induces serotonin and phenylethylamine—a chemical released when you’re in love—there is not nearly enough of either in chocolate for it to have an effect on the body. Don’t let this research put a damper on your fun, but it’s good food for thought the next time you consider eating colossal amounts of chocolate while watching romantic 1980s movies.


By Francesca Zani

(Adapted from article in La Papillote, the CIA student newspaper)


Francesca Zani

Francesca Zani

Francesca Zani graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York with an Associates degree in Culinary Arts. While in school she spent her time attending cooking and academic classes while withholding a leadership position. As the class group leader, she acted as a liaison between the students and chef instructors. Francesca has worked in the food industry since her sophomore year of high school, for establishments like an Italian bakery, off-premise caterer, The Relaise and Chateaux, Castle Hill Inn, Crave Restaurant, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Throughout her time at the Culinary she continues to work with food stylists helping with photo shoots. He past volunteer work includes helping with the Food Network Food and Wine Festival, NYC and volunteering at the CIA Augie Awards 2017.
In her personal time, Francesca enjoys styling and photographing her food and baked goods. She inputs her work on “The Garnished Palate” an Instagram profile used as her food portfolio. She also maintains a food blog under the same name “The Garnished Palate.” As well, Francesca has produced some published work for her school's newspaper La Papillote and the Digital Media club.
Future goals include obtaining a bachelor's degree in Applied Food Studies. Francesca is very passionate about learning different cooking and plating techniques. She hopes to work under prestigious chefs and one day lands a career in food media. www.francescazani.com
Francesca Zani

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