Words: Shamim de Brún
Valentine’s Day is a lovers’ holiday whether you like it or not. Valentines, like most holidays, wouldn’t be complete without food. Can foods be romantic? Absolutely. As much as romance is an abstract concept we invented, we can also prescribe meaning to the foods we eat with or off our lovers? You know what we mean. Chocolate-dipped strawberries and pink champagne?
Which foods do we consider romantic, though? Romantic foods vary from culture to culture. Crave them, yearn for them, and of course, add them to your Valentine’s Day menu. They pair perfectly with love.
Here is our quasi-scientific and totally nerdy guide to the top romantic foods to try.
Chilli peppers inspire lovey-dovey feelings. Perhaps chilli peppers are so romantic because they contain capsaicin. Capsaicin is a spicy little compound that makes your tongue feel pleasantly tingly, which creates an adrenaline rush. Time to spice things up a little? According to this study, women who eat spicy foods on dates find the person they’re dating more attractive.
There are two kinds of truffles: chocolate and mushroom. Chocolate might be the reigning romantic food, but truffles compete at a level chocolate can’t even conceive. Truffles are a rare kind of mushroom. “Truffle hunting” is a thing complete with expert trackers and purebred Lagotto Romagnolo dogs to sniff them out. They used to use pigs, but they would eat more of the truffles than not. The rarest truffle varieties can cost thousands of euros per kilo! As well as being extremely rare, truffles are considered an aphrodisiac. In this Stanford study, truffles emit pheromones that attract women, like milkshakes bring boys to the yard.
Oysters are one of the more divisive foods on this list. Oysters are one of those things you either love or hate.
In the early 19th century, Oysters weren’t considered the delicacy they are nowadays, and the working class ate them regularly. However, over time, thriving supplies were made more scarce by demand and changes to the natural environment, which drove up prices. It turns out that oysters have been considered an aphrodisiac since Casanova. They are rich in some magic amino acids that can elevate testosterone levels and get men all kinds of excited.
It is said Greek goddess Aphrodite planted the first pomegranate tree. Unsurprisingly, its fruit is thought to be an aphrodisiac. Others speculate that the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was really a pomegranate rather than an apple. Either way, the ancient Greeks’ symbol for Aphrodite is inextricably tied to young love.
Its distinctive tart flavour and outstanding antioxidant properties are overshadowed by its beauty. Visually on the outside, pomegranates are gorgeous bright red and round, while inside, they are bursting with juicy jewel-like seeds. There is a bit of sensual art to eating a pomegranate. The act of breaking one open and, a chunk in hand, individually pick out seeds, delighting the seed explodes with juice in your mouth. It evokes all sorts of other things. This is probably why it’s deemed romantic. Sex and romance are often conflated.
Caviar is a much-parodied fine-dining food of the upper crust and has been for centuries. Casanova was said to eat it by the spoonful when he wasn’t busy indulging in one of his sordid love affairs. Made from sturgeon eggs, the finest caviar is usually silver or gold in colour. The finest are found in the wild, straight out of the Caspian sea.
But who would have ever thought fish eggs would be synonymous with romance? Luxury and romance often cross and intermingle, probably because people treat the people they love. So when you want to create a romantic night of sensual extravagance, caviar has the proper branding and history of making it feel like the grandest romantic gesture.
Romantically red and decadently juicy, these tart little berries even look like little hearts. This is probably why they are everywhere at this time of year. Every second ad has a romantic lead hand-feeding tantalizing bites to their honeybun. The tradition goes back way longer than that. However, ancient Romans considered strawberries the symbol of Venus, the goddess of love. They also come into season early in spring in some parts of the world.
Technically speaking, wine is a drink, not food, but wine is one of the most potent aphrodisiacs in existence. Studies show that one or two glasses of vino has quite the swoon effect on women in particular. Whether that’s to do with beer googles or the fact that booze makes everyone horny is hard to prove.