Love Bites: Eros in a Shopping Cart
A warning, his suggestions are kind of racy.
We're going to be talking about some adult topics here. Just a heads-up. (pause) Still with us? Good. There's historically been a connection between simple foods and sex – heck, just recently, Argentine President Christina Fernandez announced to her countrymen that pork was more effective than Viagra. In these tight times, a romantic Valentine's dinner might push the budget. So I decided to check out the erotic possibilities of common grocery items.
Joining me on this shopping trip is Debby Herbenick, who teaches at the The Kinsey Institute in Indiana. Herbenick has authored a number of articles for scientific journals, as well as Because It Feels Good, a woman's guide to sexual pleasure and satisfaction. At a downtown Chicago market, we strolled the aisles, stopping now and then to let Herbenick apply her scientific expertise, and her imagination.
We stop at a glistening display of olives.
HERBENICK: I've just recently become an olive fan; actually, I used to think they were the most disgusting thing on earth. But about six months ago I decided to try to like them and I loved them, now, I can't get enough of these things, which actually I think is a good metaphor of sex, too. You can think something doesn't sound good, or it's unappealing. If you can try something, usually if you can become familiar enough with anything you'll like something, whether it's music or food or even sex, finger food has such erotic potential for yourself or sort of seducing your partner through food.
HAMMOND: As in feeding your partner…?
HERBENICK: Yes, I know some couples for whom feeding each other and eating and cooking together has become such an integral part of their dating relationship and courtship and marriage and for some people, everything centers around food.
Believe me, I know the feeling. Now we're at the dairy case.
HERBENICK: Well, you know, dairy is interesting because a lot of people have been using dairy for milk baths. Romantic baths can really help seduction and getting people in the mood, especially women. Women do typically need more to get in the mood than men do. Not always, not all women, but usually that's true. And some of the other dairy products, like yogurt, you could lap them off your partner's body…
In the lore of Led Zeppelin, the rock band, there's the story of Robert Plant being in a hotel in London, and he asked the hotel staff to fill a bathtub with baked beans so that he and his lover could cavort in it. Sexy or stupid?
HERBENICK: I think that's kind of sexy. Yeah, why not, I mean it's powerful, right. I mean here's this rock star, who says fill it with baked beans, and it's such an odd request, but then it does have a lot of texture to it, and it's new, I mean I'm sure they're not having sex in baked beans every week, every day, so it's novel and novel is sexy.
So now we're coming into the seafood section and this seems in a way like a Gimme because if you ask the average person on the street, "Can you name an aphrodisiac or two?" probably oysters would be in that group. Why do you think that is?
HERBENICK: Well, there's a lot of folklore around them. Supposedly it was Casanova that used to eat oysters before his love-making with all his wonderful many, many partners. We don't know that there's anything to do with them as aphrodisiacs, but you know some people say just because they look like genitals too, they just may actually be linked in that way as an aphrodisiac. And that happens with a lot of foods, like cucumbers and bananas certainly ones that resemble a woman's genitals like the inside of a papaya or a fig, kiwi to some extent, avocado.
Is there any scientific research that demonstrates, to a greater or lesser extent, that a specific food substance has an aphrodisiac quality. That is, that it arouses or enhances sex?
HERBENICK: No, at this point there is not. So, several scientists have looked at these foods that are supposedly aphrodisiacs, and they really haven't found that...
HAMMOND: Is it not somewhat the case that with an aphrodisiac “thinking makes it so”?
HERBENICK: The placebo effect generally runs about 50 percent in a lot of medication, so you know, if you find something that works, and it's not harmful to you, then I say go for it. It may actually work because one day, science may uncover that it actually works. In the meantime, even if it's just your mind, the mind is enormously powerful. Believe in something. Have faith in it. And enjoy it.
HERBENICK: I cannot walk by these marinated octopus salads without thinking they'd be perfect for pasties. I mean, you could put some on your nipples, put them on top, and then if your partner likes marinated octopus salad, then he could sort of nibble them right off. Awesome.
So I picked up some of the marinated octopi, which are complete, miniature cephalopods, brought them home and tried them on for size, following Herbenick's direction.
HAMMOND: In your opinion, sexy or stupid?
WIFE: (Laughs) Hmm, hmm, odd, definitely odd. I don't know. This could scar me for life, this visual here. (Laughs)
They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I think it's also accurate to the say that one way to a woman's heart is through her sense of humor. Leastwise, it's always worked for me.
David Hammond is a moderator of LTH Forum, the Chicago culinary chat site, and a contributor to Chicago Reader and Time Out Chicago.
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