© Kat Morgenstern, February 2002
One of the nicest things about February is not only the fact that March is just around the corner and therefore spring is on the way, but the fact that the inner tide is turning too, and just as the sap is rising in trees in flowers, the love juices are also flowing within. It is a time to indulge in love and romance, to lavishing buckets of romantic gooeyness on your significant other or engage in some hot and passionate pursuits. The 14th of February is Valentine's Day, a somewhat spurious Christian Saints Day, which has its origin in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a festival of sexual licence. The Church at first denounced this lewd pagan rites, however, they proved too popular to be lastingly suppressed. Thus the old festival of love became thinly veiled under a cloak of Christian piety as the Saints day of St. Valentine, an invented figure who was supposed to have been executed just as his beloved received his 'billet of love' ( a kind of little love letter, which finds its parallel in our modern custom of sending Valentines cards), which was the Roman custom associated with the festival of Lupercalia. Incidentally, the word 'February' is derived from the name of the Goddess 'Juno Februata', to whom this month was sacred. Her name signified 'febris' - fever, which in this case does not refer to the Goddess's severe case of flu, but to her severe case of passion, for her name implies the fever of love. To this day Valentine's Day is celebrated as a festival for lovers. Here is a look at some of those age old customs and their underlying significance, along with some suggestions on how to stoke the fever of love and add a little zest to your celebrations.
Flowers are still the most popular valentines gift, but which ones should you choose? The Victorians developed an elaborate'secret' floral language that expressed not just a general 'I was thinking of you' sort of message, but depending on the flower, could convey a very specific implication about just exactly *what* someone was thinking about when he or she picked that Valentine's bunch. Picking the wrong kind of flowers could mean the opposite of what one had intended. Even Roses were not safe, depending on the variety or colour, instead of saying 'I love you', it could mean something like 'you are a pretty ditz', or 'you might be charming, but proud and your beauty will not last. Click here for a whole long list of meanings to help you understand this complex language before you make a fatal mistake!
Might be safer to 'say it with chocolates' after all, the other most popular gift between lovers. Though perhaps a little less romantic, it might be more enticing and less ambiguous. Chocolate has been hailed as an effective aphrodisiac ever since it was first discovered. The Aztecs, who were the first to make ample use of it, revered it as powerful stimulating tonic and aphrodisiac. Moctezuma, the last Aztec emperor was reported to regularly strengthen himself with a goblet full of his favourite foaming 'xocoatl' (=chocolate) brew before entering his harem. Few of us today would find his recipe particularly tempting as it had little in common with our modern concept of chocolate, - nevertheless, it seems to have worked for him. Incidentally modern research has found some basis to this ancient aphrodisiac reputation in the pharmacology of cocoa, which contains a substance that has aptly been termed 'Anandamide' in allusion to the sanscrit word 'ananda', which means bliss. Anandamide is an anti-depressant and induces a feeling of well being and content. Chocolate is also rich in Phenylethylamine, the same compound that is thought to be responsible for that feeling of euphoria so characteristic of the state of 'being in love'.
Love goes through the stomach, so they say, and for those who find chocolates and flowers too ordinary, perhaps an aphrodisiac dish, prepared with love, of course, as well as some special ingredients to spice up the occasion, might just be the right kind of appetizer. Many foods have been deemed to have an aphrodisiac effect. Some undoubtedly acting more as a visual suggestive - (who says placebos don't work?), while others might indeed have a more pertinent physiological effect. Among the visual stimulants are things like carrots, parsnips, asparagus, or bananas. Other aphrodisiac foods, less visually suggestive include, pinon nuts, lady's fingers, truffle mushrooms, oysters and puffer fish to name but a few. Various spices as well as certain herbs have also long been deemed effective. Among these are lovage, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, garlic, chilli, damiana, and yohimbe which vary greatly in efficacy. Here are some recipes you might like to try - though I will neither guarantee nor take any responsibility for any events that might ensue:
|Conch with Tropical Salsa||In the Caribbean conch is considered an aphrodisiac. However, it might be hard to get hold of. In this case perhaps squid could be substituted. Both have a similar flavour and consistency. Most likely the tropical salsa is the more potent aphrodisiac of the combination, it is so exotic and delicious that it will make anybody go soft at the knees. To prepare it is very easy, just take a nice variety of tropical fruit, such as kiwi, pine-apple, a little orange, mango and papaya and cut up in bite sized chunks. The pine-apple is the key ingredient here. It will also act as a tenderizer for the conch or squid. Add the juice of one lime and its' zest, garlic and several very hot chillies, e.g. habaneros. Sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves. If more liquid is needed use a little orange juice, perhaps even a tiny dash of contreau. This is a devine mixture to serve with almost any kind of fish, conch, shellfish and white fish will be especially delicious.|
2 cups Basil leaves
3 cloves of garlic
¾ cup piñon
1/3 cup parmesan
2 chillies (variable)
1lb cooked shrimp
(serves 4 people)
when eaten in reasonable quantities, does not have to be heavy. Usually
the sauce is the culprit when it comes to turning a nice pasta dish into
a bloater. Pesto is wonderful, in that in and of itself it does not really
add any 'heaviness' to the pasta, but instead it is all flavour and zap!
Especially this varietaion on the theme:
Take two bunches of basil, cut them up roughly and place in a food processor; add the garlic, and a little olive oil. Blend until smooth. Carefully add the grated parmesan cheese and the chillies. (The amount of chillies is variable. If you like it hot, by all means add more, if you don't, perhaps one will be sufficient.) If the paste becomes too dry, add a little more olive oil until you get a nice smooth, not too runny, not too stodgy consistency. Stir in the pinon nuts and some salt to taste, and your basic pesto is ready.
For the pasta choose one that is bite sized, like the Farfalla for example and cook according to the directions on the packet, drain and stir in the pesto mixture until all the pasta is well coated, add the cooked shrimp et voilá!
& Orange Soup
2 cloves of Garlic
1 large potato
1 organic orange
ground coriander seed
ground cumin seed
fresh coriander leaves
the onion and garlic and sautee in olive oil till soft, add the grated
carrots and grated potato , stirring in the oil just for a minute, add
some vegetable stock (I usually sprinkle in the powder, stir it in and
add some liquid after), enough to cover the potatoes and carrots, add some
coriander seed powder and some cumin powder (about a teaspoon each) and
let it simmer.
When the vegetables begin to get soft add the juice of one orange and the zest (only add the zest if you used an organic orange). Also add about half a teaspoon of ginger powder, chillies are optional. Simmer until very soft, season to taste with salt and pepper, and if necessary just a tiny touch of honey to blend the flavours. Blend the soup, either with a mixer stick or food processor till smooth, add more liquid (e.g. more vegetable stock or a drop of milk) to get a nice soupy, not too stodgy consistency. Sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves and serve with fresh granary bread and butter or garlic bread.
1 cup strawberries
(mint leaves for decoration)
|Blend the mascarpone with a little squeeze of lemon juice to give it some zest (if the lemon is organic you can grate a little bit of the rind into the mixture as well), add a few drops of vanilla essence, not too much, and some maple syrup to sweeten to taste. Blend till smooth, then add the strawberries, quartered, and just give it a little spin in the blender, but be careful not to mush the strawberries to pulp. Fill into glasses and cool. Top with a rasping of dark chocolate and a little sprig of mint leaves if available. For a low fat variation try substituting the mascarpone with fromage frais or joghurt, or go half and half, if you don't want to sacrifice that divine creamy texture completely.|
|Drinks||For a love cup, stay away from too much alcohol. While a little might enhance the experience, too much inevitably ruins it. If you choose alcohol, a light sparkling wine will probably be the most conducive.|
a chai tea. This exquisite tasty blend combines a whole array of aphrodisiac
spices and gives a wonderfully warm inner glow. This is how it is done.
Take a large pot and heat up some milk (about half a pint. Add dried ginger,
black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and a litlle cardamom and simmer for about
half an hour. Make a pot of black tea and add this to the milk. Simmer
a little longer until all the flavours are well blended and sweeten with
honey to taste.
Another interesting herb is Kava Kava, a plant of the pepper family from Polynesia. It is hailed as an anti-depressive and can now be found in pill form in health food stores. The tea is much more interesting though and has rather nice aphrodisiac qualities, in that it lifts the spirit and mood, spreading a sense of warmth and loving sensuality, which in time becomes replaced with a content sense of sleepiness. Perhaps not the right kind of approach if you are planning on all night action. Anyhow, the thing about Kava Kava is that it has to be mixed with Lecithin granules to become effective. A very nice tea mixture is Damiana leaves, Rose petals, Lemon Verbena, Cinnamon sticks and ground Kava Kava (a small amount is enough e.g. in an ounze of herbs no more than 3g mixed well with an equal amount of lecithin granules before blending with the other herbs). Sweeten with honey.
Warning: Kava Kava is reported to have a damaging effect on the kidneys and liver if taken in excessive quantities. People with any kind of kidney problems should best avoid this herb altogether.<
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This Article was originally published in the Sacred Earth Newletter. The Newsletter is a FREE service containing articles, news and reviews on all things herbal and/or ethnobotanical, with an approximate publication cylce of 6 - 8 weeks. If you wish to subscribe, please use the subscription box to submit your e-mail address.
Please note that although all the references to edible and medicinal herbs are tried and tested, their efficacy cannot be guaranteed and has not been approved by the FDA. Furthermore, everybody responds differently to various plants, and adverse reactions cannot be ruled out. Historical information regarding poisonous plants is included for educational purposes only and should not be tried out at home. Everybody uses herbs at their own risk and thus must make themselves fully aware of their potential power. Any information given here is educational and should not replace a visit to the doctor should this be necessary. Neither Sacred Earth nor Kat Morgenstern accepts responsibility for anybody's home experimentation. Links to external sites are included as pointers to further resources - we do not endorse them or are in any way responsible for their content, nor do we thus verify that their content is accurate.