February 13, 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 graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York with an Associates degree in Culinary Arts, Spring 2017 and will be obtaining her bachelor's degree thisSpring in Applied Food Studies. Currently, Francesca is studying abroad in Puglia, Italy from January to April 2018 with high hopes to find immense inspiration and knowledge of her own heritage.Francesca previously assisted James Beard-nominated cookbook author, Sarah Copeland of Edible Living. She is helped Sarah curate her third cookbook, assisting with recipe development, photo shoots, and other organizational tasks. She also helps freelance food stylists with photo shoots and was a part of the culinary team for Patti Labelle's cooking series that premiered November 2017. In the past, Francesca has worked as a banquet server for Blue Hill at Stone Barns and line cook intern at the Castle Hill Inn, Newport RI.

In her personal time, Francesca enjoys styling and photographing her food and baked goods. She posts 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.”She previously created and edited a food media focused digital magazine to inspire students about the field of food media. The magazine was published as a special edition project with the help of the CIA's Media Relations. Francesca has also produced some published work for her school's newspaper La Papillote and the Digital Media club where she holds a position as vice president.

Francesca is very passionate about food print and video media and hopes to one day work with a Prestigious food publication or production company where she can learn a multitude of skills under professional chefs, Stylists, and producers.

Julia Child Foundation for writing scholarship- 2016
Francesca Zani