Few human instincts are as compelling as the desire for sexual connection. Throughout time, the moment our basic survival needs–food, shelter, protection from large, furry animals–have been met, we’ve sought sexual union, both for procreation and pleasure. And universal though it may be, sex is still the most enduring enigma. Sex represents survival in its purest form, ensuring the continuation of the species. At its worst, consensual sex is still fun; at its best, it’s mind-blowing. And when it isn’t happening at all, it can be devastating.
So, throughout history, those afflicted with sexual disorders, from impotence to lack of interest, have sought out foods and herbs to inspire desire. Some of these aphrodisiacs–named for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of fertility, beauty and desire–are thought to be lust-provoking because of their resemblance to human genitalia. These range from the obvious, like bananas, cucumbers and asparagus, to the slightly more subtle, like peaches, apricots and raspberries, which are thought to resemble a woman’s nipples. And then some foods, like lobsters and mangoes, are simply sexier than others. Really, how sultry can you feel eating peanut butter or canned tuna?
Figs have enjoyed a versatility unmatched by any other aphrodisiac, being compared alternately to the penis, vagina, testicles and anus. The avocado tree was termed “Ahuacuatl” (“testicle tree”) by the Aztecs, who thought the fruit hanging in pairs looked like testicles. Truffles, with their musky aroma and mysterious folds, have been considered aphrodisiacs since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Papayas–juicy, voluptuous, with subtle swells and curves that are uniquely feminine–were thought in folk medicine to stimulate the production of estrogen.