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Rx for Xs & Os  an aphrodisiac-inspired Valentine's Day fete 
by Mandy Karls 
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on't wait around for Cupid to take charge this February. With a little imagination Aphrodite can help you stir things up on your own. 
The Greek goddess of love has lent her name to numerous substances historically purported to affect our amorous desires. Although aphrodisiacs are commonly thought of as things that can be eaten or otherwise ingested, their efficacy ultimately depends on perception, not digestion. In addition to the tastes, textures and smells of certain foods, the human brain responds to a variety of stimuli. Take advantage of this mind-body connection and follow this simple guide for planning a party that is sure to appeal to all the senses.
food for thought
The month of February is historically associated with conspicuous consumption and raucous revelry. Rich food and fine wine plays an essential role in most any Valentine's Day date, while Mardi Gras (which almost always occurs in the month of February) provides one last splurge before the Lenten fast. The ancient Romans also found cause to feast during "Lupercalia," a celebration of fertility and sensual pleasure that took place each February 15th.

mood food
Aphrodisiac foods range from the simplistically suggestive to the ridiculously bizarre. While ground rhinoceros horns and fresh snake blood have been among the most coveted aphrodisiacs, endangered species do not exhaust the list of eligible edibles. Spicy foods like chilies have been recognized for their ability to mimic physical responses to other types of corporal stimulation. Similarly, foods such as asparagus and bananas have been prized for their visual likeness to certain body parts. Other foods and spices that have been thought to arouse more just our appetites include figs, oysters, berries, almonds, honey, chocolate, avocado, cherries, coffee, ginger, garlic, mustard, basil, cloves, and vanilla. 

getting figgy with it For more information on aphrodisiac foods, go to GourmetSleuth or pick-up a copy of Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge.
Serve naughty nibbles that feature aphrodisiac ingredients. For a simple spread of no-fuss fare, offer roasted almonds, chocolate covered-coffee beans, baklava, rum-soaked cherries, gingersnaps and strawberries with Flameless Chocolate Fondue. Provide a great conversation starter for your guests by placing a brief description next to each offering indicating its prurient properties.

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