What better time of year is there to talk about aphrodisiacs than at Valentine's Day?
Aphrodisiacs can be foods that psychologically and/or scientifically help us feel. well. "in the mood," for lack of better words. The perfect combination is the desire for many on Feb. 14.
Although each person's food preferences have the biggest influence on this romantic journey into cuisine, there are some classic ingredients that fall into this category.
The first that comes to mind is chocolate, and I am certain that many will agree.
With its velvety smooth melting texture, this sweet addition to dessert choices will usually win over any other.
Chocolate has been proven to contain ingredients such as phenylethylamine and serotonin: two chemicals that stimulate pleasure senses in the brain. Those, plus the natural stimulant effect from the caffeine, make for a wonderfully seductive and addictive ingredient.
Fresh, imported strawberries are usually available this time of year, and having them dipped in chocolate makes for the perfect finish to a romantic meal.
Oysters and caviar have also been considered aphrodisiacs, and some argue it is because they are a good source of zinc, which contributes to maintaining male potency and fertility.
However, there are many other foods high in zinc that are not considered aphrodisiacs, such as lima beans, lentils, and spinach; and making your sweetheart a stir-fry of them may not give a romantic impression.
Cayenne pepper and spicy foods also play large roles as aphrodisiacs, because they increase heart rates, blood flow, and perspiration. Some say endorphins are also released, thus providing a natural high and pleasurable feeling.
Champagne, or sparkling wine, is considered the drink of lovers, but one can also use nonalcoholic sparkling grape juice as an alternative.
Alcohol can lower inhibitions, and thus be regarded as an aphrodisiac, but tiny bubbles in a sparkling drink, even in nonalcoholic alternatives, are said to be very seductive.
Regardless of what you choose to serve, staying in for a romantic dinner can be accomplished with little effort and some creative planning.
The menu you decide upon does not have to be complicated, but it should be meaningful. Your effort should reflect your compassion, and your thoughtfulness will be the most important ingredient.
There is one last ingredient I should mention that is believed to be an aphrodisiac: garlic. when eaten by both people.
It is, however, considered a prophylactic when eaten by just one.
Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www. chefdez.com. Send questions to email@example.com or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4