In the backstreets and marketplaces of Roseau, on the Caribbean island of Dominica, the locals brew a potion called bois bande, made from herbs and tree bark. The tea colored liquid smells vaguely of cinnamon and has a pleasant, faintly spicy flavor. But the Dominicans don't drink bois bande for its taste, they drink it because it is reputed to be a potent aphrodisiac.
Throughout history, people have sought the means to ensure sexual success and fertility. Aphrodisiacs: foods, drinks, drugs, scents, or devices used to arouse sexual desire or improve sexual performance have captured the publics imagination, if not legions of amorous hearts, for more than 5,000 years.
Named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, reputed aphrodisiacs have included such widely disparate substances as anchovies, adrenaline, asparagus, deer sperm, frogs legs, ginseng, goats eyes, licorice, lard, olives, oysters, pine nuts, rhinoceros horn, scallops, strawberries, vitamin E, a notorious ground up beetle called Spanish fly, and, most recently, blue and green M&Ms.
"Food, sex, and romance have been linked for centuries," said Ellen and Michael Albertson in their best selling cookbook and romance guide Food as Foreplay: Recipes for Romance, Love, and Lust (Alexandria Press, Cambridge, MA) "Thats because cooking, eating, and making love use the same senses...Like sex, cooking and eating are about learning, experimenting, and experiencing. And the kitchen, like the bedroom, is a great place for fun, relaxation, and seduction."
Loving Throughout History
At one time or another, in one place or another, somebody has propounded that almost every food or drink known to humankind has aphrodisiacal properties. The ancient Greeks, noting that Aphrodite was borne from the sea on an oyster shell and quickly gave birth to Eros, probably began the tradition of eating oysters to whet their sexual appetites. Legends have the Roman emperors paying for their oysters by their weight in gold. (Todays oysters are similarly expensive, but for much different reasons.)
In 17th century Netherlands, as in many other cultures, oysters were touted as the absolute incarnation of an aphrodisiac. Giacomo Casanova, the famous 18th century Italian lover, was also a firm believer in oysters, eating 50 of them raw every morning, while splashing around in the bath with his latest objet d'amour.