Public domain photo by Petr Kratochvil

There are plenty of aphrodisiacs to be found lurking amongst food items that we consider to be typically French. Here are a few to try out on February 14th.

Aniseed (anise) has been used as an aphrodisiac since Roman times. Sucking the seeds was thought to increase desire, and there’s truth in this as they contain oestrogens. It also gives you sexy fresh breath! Pastis and Pernod contain aniseed so share a glass of this with your Romeo or Juliet on Valentine’s Day.

Almonds are one of the oldest known aphrodisiacs and fertility symbols. The scent of the nuts and the tree blossom is very sensual. The nuts themselves are a protein powerhouse containing vitamin E, copper, potassium, selenium, iron and phosphorus and will give you plenty of staying power. No wonder dragées (sweet coated almonds) are so closely associated with weddings in France! In fact, in the old days these sweets would be thrown at the ceremony. Since they were known as confetti in Italy, then that’s where the name for the coloured paper shapes we throw today has come from. I think I’d have rather had dragées thrown at mine! Verdun is especially famous for their production, and this industry dates back to the thirteenth century. So, either dish up some dragées on Valentine’s Day or other marzipan confections that every confiserie sells here in France.

The Aztecs were the first to see the connection between sexual desire and the cocoa bean. Emperor  Montezuma ate loads to fuel his love life! Scientists now know that chocolate contains tryptophan and phenylethylamine, both of which are chemicals involved in arousal and falling in love. However, many think the quantities are possibly too small to really have an effect. But chocolate is packed with energy which always comes in handy. So I would go with incorporating chocolate into St Valentine’s Day meal somewhere or other. A typical chocolate heavy French breakfast would be a good start – hot chocolate and pains au chocolat or one of the many types of chocolate enhanced breakfast cereals that are de rigueur over here! Chocolate mousse at lunch or dinner, and chocolate covered marzipan or almonds would be the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee, itself an aphrodisiac because of its stimulating properties.

Two other very French foods have love-enhancing qualities – mustard and truffles. Mustard is believed to stimulate the sexual glands. Monks weren’t allowed to have any in days gone by in case it set them on the path to ruin. And truffles? Pigs root them out because they give off scents similar to a porcine pheromone with a  musky smell. But the effect on humans isn’t so clear. The Romans certainly thought they were aphrodisiacs and so did Napoleon. Possibly he had too many! But if they were good enough for him, they why not give them a go, that is if you can afford it.

So a few suggestions of French foods to serve your loved on St Valentine’s Day to make it a bit more fun!