To kick off a flurry of fun content we’ve got in honor of Valentine’s Day, we sat down with Deborah A. Levine, author of the just-released book Love Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Many Ways We Celebrate Romance and Passion. A collection of letters, quotations, and fun facts, Love Miscellany answers questions such as which aphrodisiacs — if any — really work, why chocolate is a symbol of love, and much more.
In Love Miscellany, you dig into the topic of aphrodisiacs. We’re dying to know — do they really exist, technically speaking?
The idea that eating certain foods can enhance our sexual desire or potency has been around for thousands of years and exists in some form in most cultures. When I was researching this chapter in the book, I was amazed by the variety of unusual (by American standards) things people eat in the name of getting it on. (Deer and tiger penises, anyone?) As much as eating a slippery oyster or the silky flesh of an avocado may make us feel turned on, and despite extensive scientific research, however, so far there’s no conclusive evidence that anything we consume causes true sexual arousal. So, technically speaking, no, aphrodisiacs do not exist.
Even though there isn’t enough evidence to prove that aphrodisiacs are a real thing, why is it that food is so closely tied to Valentine’s Day?
Whether or not eating a luscious chocolate-dipped strawberry scientifically turns us on, there’s no denying that food and love (or lust) are inextricably linked. What do we do when we want to show someone we think they’re special? We take them out to dinner. Romantic ambiance, good wine, candlelight and a sumptuous meal can definitely put you in the mood, no matter what science says about it. Like I say in the book, according to psychologists, the power of suggestion is the most potent aphrodisiac there is. Anyone who’s ever been on a great date knows that sharing a romantic meal with someone you’re attracted to can be a real turn-on, whether you’re eating truffles and caviar or burgers and fries.
How did chocolate become irrevocably linked with Valentine’s Day in American culture? Where did that even start?